MMBC – what are you doing in my trash ??

There’s a new recycling program coming to BC, and there’s been a lot of media coverage of this issue of late, mostly on the challenges of business in how the new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program for packaging and paper is rolling out.

I will try to give some background, but this will be mainly from the residential standpoint, as the City is not involved in the producer side of this program.

In May 2011 the BC Government introduced legislation that requires the producers of packaging and printed paper to take responsibility for their products through their lifecycle (ie: keeping them out of landfill and ensuring they are recycling). MMBC backgrounder Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) is a non-profit industry-led and financed organization that will assume responsibility for managing residential packaging and printed paper recycling on behalf of industry in May 2014. In order to fulfill the requirements of the legislation, MMBC is starting a program of curbside collection to recover the materials from the residences, effectively replacing the curbside ‘blue box’ programs currently developed by the municipalities.

To roll out the program, MMBC is contracting with collection companies (like Smithrite or Waste Management) to do the curbside collection, which was tendered through a competitive bid RFQ process.

There were three options presented to municipalities by MMBC:

(1) turn recycling over to MMBC including collection,

(2) contract with MMBC as a collector and deliver the products to the MMBC processors or

(3) opt out of the program entirely and continue as in the past.

In Port Moody, we exercised the option of becoming the contracted collector with MMBC , so City trucks and staff will continue to pickup recycling at the curbside. The City is paid per the agreed contract to pickup and deliver the materials for MMBC. Some (very few in the Metro region) municipalities have turned the collection over to MMBC – Coquitlam is a local example. MMBC pays their contracted collectors directly, there is no involvement of the City in this arrangement. Hopefully, reading the options above, it is obvious why Port Moody chose the option that we did. We have a first class recycling program, automated trucks, residential bins in place and a system that works well and integrates with our green waste and garbage collection. Had we turned the collection over to MMBC it would be different collectors, possibly different schedules, and a system we had no control over. Having only recently brought the collection back in house, after years of complaints from residents, we felt the outcome would be poor service and resident frustration.

So, we now have many stories in the media about MMBC and every one that I have heard includes error in fact or outright fabrications.

1. The system is ‘double charging’ for the recyclables as the city continues to charge for recycling and now there is a recycling levy built into the purchase price. – untrue.

The city is accepting payment from the industry (MMBC) for the collection and processing of the recyclables and we are reducing the residential rates to reflect that. In our case, the rate is not going to $0 as we do not get full cost recovery due to our single stream program (which we wish to maintain due to higher recycling rates).

2. The program is run by an unaccountable, Ontario based company. – untrue.

MMBC is an industry association made up of the companies that are affected by the provincial legislation. MMBC is accountable to their members as well as required to submit reporting to the government, but their primary responsibility is to their membership/stakeholders. Many of the large corporations in BC are Ontario based so it is of little surprise the MMBC board members are Ontario based, but that is a decision of their companies, not the government or cities.

3. The cities are getting a bad deal. – untrue.

The cities that agreed to operate as contractors with MMBC did so of their choice, there was nothing mandatory about the relationship. While Cities were concerned with the way the program rolled out in 2013, most of the concerns around the program have been addressed by MMBC and many remain active in development.

If cities do not like the deal they were presented, they have made alternative arrangements.

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Mike Clay

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