Letter: Compliance with new regulations unlikely

Reader says real story about recycling fees will be about their effect on small businesses

Compliance with new regulations unlikely

It is quite wonderful that the fifth estate in B.C. is finally making some comments on the new recycling regulations that will be coming into effect in the next year or so.

Everyone, including most businesses, loves to recycle and the intent of the new laws are most welcome and quite laudable.

The new regulations are intended to significantly increase recycling rates in B.C. which will dramatically reduce landfill rates and may even lead to less materials being introduced into the consumer waste stream. Who can argue with that?

So far, the press has focused on the way that municipalities will be affected. Very little attention has been paid to the key change in how responsibility for funding our entire recycling system is going to change. The intention of the new regulations is to shift the cost for recycling from governments to those that produce and distribute recyclables.

Currently, 100 per cent of non-refundable beverage container recycling is the responsibility of municipal governments.

When the new legislation comes into effect, this will shift almost entirely to the business community to completely fund and organize the recycling of all packaging and all paper products distributed in B.C.

Taxpayers will no longer be on the hook for these costs and ultimately it will be the consumers of the packaging and paper products who will actually pay for their recycling.

Again, this will likely turn out to be a good thing as it will hopefully lead to less production and consumption of these recyclables.

Here is the challenge. Virtually every one of tens of thousands of B.C. businesses are obliged to participate in this program. There is no minimum business size threshold for this obligation.

In addition, there is almost no single packaging component for any type of product other than milk containers and refundable beverage containers that is excluded from the applicable list of recyclables.

It also includes every single piece of paper that a business produces and gives or distributes in B.C.

For example, it includes every receipt and every bag that is given to a consumer when they make a purchase in a retail store.

So far, this may sound very reasonable. Here is where it falls apart. Each business is required to keep track of every single component of all packaging material and every single piece of paper that they sell or that they give away. This includes all of the many packaging components that may be required to contain a single consumer item.

They are required to report these quantities along with the weight of each packaging or paper component.

After that, an as yet undetermined fee will be levied and paid into a general fund which will then be sent to the municipalities to pay for the collection, sorting and the actual recycling of all of these materials.

Again, this may all sound very reasonable on the surface.

However, even businesses with fairly sophisticated operating software and systems do not have very much, if any, information regarding the weight of each component of each package of anything that they sell or distribute.

Reporting any sort of accurate information is virtually impossible.

Here is the punchline to this quite unbelievable scenario. The penalty for non-compliance with these new regulations is up to $200,000.

Currently, there is a non-profit society that was formed by some of the biggest retail players in the province called Multi Materials BC (see www.multimaterialbc.ca) that is attempting to formulate a plan to make this process work.

The arbitrary and uninformed processes that they are proposing are virtually impossible to comply with.

Much of the information provided by this organization is contradictory, incomplete and inaccurate.

Thousands of businesses in B.C. don’t even know that these regulations are soon to be the law of the land.

Most businesses who are aware believe that these regulations don’t apply to them.

The legislation and the resulting implementation process is deeply flawed.

It is entirely unworkable and it is going to implode. Government and big business should get the message sooner rather than later that there has to be a massive re-think on how to make this work.

Finally, the fifth estate has to take a hard look at this and not just focus on the easy part of how the municipalities are going to be affected by these new regulations.

Richard Hunt