Burns Lake entertains curbside recycling

Curbside recycling of printed paper and packaging may be coming to the Village of Burns Lake soon.

Curbside recycling of printed paper and packaging (PPP) may be coming to the Village of Burns Lake (VBL) soon.

Village council held a special meeting of council on Aug. 29 to discuss a request from a provincial agency – Multi-Material BC (MMBC) – that the village respond by Sept. 15, 2013 to an offer of financial incentive to early adopters of MMBC’s PPP recycling effort.

The so-called Stewardship Plan for Packaging and Printed Paper was conceived by MMBC in response to new recycling regulations introduced by the province in 2004.

According to a council report prepared by Jeff Ragsdale, VBL development services coordinator, the goal of the plan is to unload the cost of recycling onto producers and consumers, and take it away from the taxpayer. The program intends to achieve a 75 per cent province-wide recycling rate.

Financial incentives of up to $23,400 per year for five years are on offer by MMBC to those municipalities and regions that choose to buy into the program.

Refusing to come on board would mean that MMBC might pursue other means of establishing PPP recycling in Burns Lake, potentially through contracts with private enterprise. It could also mean that MMBC would choose not to provide any local recycling-receiving facilities close to Burns Lake, which would, presumably, increase the cost of recycling at a later date.

If the VBL gets on board with MMBC, then MMBC will not only make a five-year financial commitment to Burns Lake in the form of cash incentives to offset the cost of recycling PPP, but MMBC would also commit to establishing a recycling facility within 60 kms of Burns Lake.

A PPP recycling facility is not the same thing as a recycling depot. A recycling facility is where everything collected, either at a recycling depot or through curbside recycling, would end up for post-collection processing.

The downside to signing on with MMBC is three-fold: the financial incentives on offer would not cover the operational cost of the program; second, the financial incentives do not cover initial capital costs, like specialized collection trucks and green bins; and finally, there are cash penalties payable by the municipality for failure to meet the MMBC ‘master service agreement’ regarding contamination of PPP recyclable materials by non-recyclable waste.

Concern regarding these stiff financial penalties recently swayed the City of Prince George (PG) to reject the MMBC offer on Aug. 27, 2013.

As reported by the Prince George Free Press, research conducted by a PG special committee into the matter had determined that the three per cent contamination threshold found in the MMBC master service agreement is well below the five to seven per cent actual contamination levels found in municipalities that already run similar programs.

A $5,000 penalty per load of above-threshold contaminated waste is written into the master agreement.

The PG municipal committee estimated that PG and its taxpayers, could be on the hook for up to $2 million in fines every year, given the size of the city and how many loads of recyclable material it would send to a post-collection facility.

It is not clear from the VBL staff report how much material would be produced in the VBL on a ‘number of loads’ basis, so it isn’t clear what level of financial penalty the VBL could face. This is part of the challenge that VBL council faces in dealing with the MMBC proposal.

Prince George’s decision not to accept MMBC’s offer to implement a subsidized recycling program means that MMBC will have to come up with an alternate means of delivering the service in order to meet the provincial 75 per cent PPP recycling target.

Village of Burns Lake council, after studied consideration of the MMBC proposal, elected to make a non-binding agreement to consider moving forward with curbside recycling. If, upon further review, the finances make sense, and if the public is on board, then the VBL would proceed with the project

One possibility is that the village might team with the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako (RDBN) on the recycling project, both in terms of pooling resources and in terms of a cash reserve held by the RDBN – more than $200,000 earmarked for recycling efforts – that may be available to offset the capital cost of purchasing new equipment.

A used specialized garbage truck for picking up PPP recyclables would cost about $76,000. Curbside recycle bins would cost the village approximately $76,000.

Annual costs to run the service could be in the order of $50,000 per year for part-time staff and related expenses, according to Ragsdale’s report.

It is important to note that operational costs are tentative because it isn’t clear how recycling might offset costs already associated with general garbage pick-up.

One avenue to be explored by council with the RDBN is the possibility that some of the $70,000 collected per year in taxation from VBL residents for waste disposal might be clawed back from the RDBN if less waste is going to RDBN-managed landfills.

This idea is likely to meet strong resistance from the RDBN. Bill Miller, RDBN chair, explained that the taxation is not a fee for service, but reflects the cost of waste management throughout the region once spread fairly amongst taxpayers.

Miller said that if there were a savings in waste management costs thanks to PPP recycling, then those savings would be passed on to residents in terms of reduced taxes, and not in terms of the RDBN giving money back the village to run its PPP program.

Village council is caught between wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to step up recycling in the municipality, while facing a host of unknowns.

“We can do some good,” said Ragsdale. “We have a real opportunity, although it depends on how it’s implemented.”

The decision by council to indicate that they are interested in starting curbside recycling under the MMBC PPP program means that the VBL will be eligible for financial subsidies should a final contract be negotiated.

The decision to consider curbside recycling is not legally binding, Ragsdale’s report emphasized.

Assuming the VBL was satisfied with negotiations, a contract could be in place as early as the end of October with a May 19, 2014 start-up date for the PPP recycling program.

 

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