The Town of Smithers drafted an emergency resolution to take forward to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention this week to address concerns with a curbside recycling contract being proposed by Multi-Material B.C.
MMBC is an industry stewardship group made up of major retailers and producers that is set to take full responsibility for collecting and recycling packaging of all sorts by next May as a result of new provincial regulations.
Smithers council has been discussing the merits of signing the MMBC contract to provide curbside recycling services to the town for most of the summer. One of their main concerns is the contract states the recycling centre will be located no further away from the town than 60 kilometres.
“I know this is something that so many other communities in B.C. are struggling with,” said Mayor Taylor Bachrach. “The way this is rolling out is not working for a lot of communities. If we can take a bit of a leadership role in that regard, I think it would be fantastic.”
At the Aug. 27 regular meeting, council signed the agreement in principle, with the condition the recycling centre be located no further away than the current one. They are still awaiting a response from MMBC on that caveat.
MMBC is offering an annual $55,000 incentive to communities that signed on the dotted line, which is not something that should be dismissed, said Deputy Mayor Frank Wray.
“I really support this because I don’t think we should throw recycling away over a bad contract but I also don’t think we should sign a bad contract without some sort of fight,” Wray said.
The Village of Telkwa is in a different position than Smithers. Their public works department has provided curbside recycling to residents for the past two years. The village is interested in sitting down to discuss a possible deal with MMBC, but they have a few issues to sort through first.
Two sticking points for the village are the $5,000 dollar punishment levied against a town if the recycling exceeds three per cent package and printed paper, and the fixed rate, five-year contract that won’t increase fees paid to the village over the course of deal.
If Telkwa does agree to a deal with MMBC it will free up the roughly $15,000 dollars per year in the budget set aside for the recycling program and allow them to put that money toward other expenditures.
Last week, the village filled out a form agreeing to begin bargaining sessions with MNBC, but has no obligation to sign a contract if the terms of the deal are not sufficient.
Other communities in the region have also stated concerns with the contract terms but have signed on in principle, like Terrace and Houston, while Prince George has refused the offer.
MMBC had previously imposed a Sept. 16 deadline for municipalities to sign the agreement but on Friday said they would allow more time.
“We have received feedback from some local governments that they require further time to consider our offer,” said Al Langdon, MMBC managing director. “As a result, we will continue discussions with these local governments in order that they could become part of MMBC’s program at a later date.”
Last week, Metro Vancouver mayors said they wanted B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to intervene to keep their curbside recycling programs from being thrown into chaos from the proposed changes. The public officials cited concerns with the low prices being offered by MMBC and the requirement that loads of recyclables cannot contain more than three per cent contamination of other materials.
“I’ve never seen a contract come through as one-sided as what they’ve done with this,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “The idea you’re going to come in and replace our programs and take over recycling is out of line — most municipalities are really concerned about that.”
The UBCM convention started Monday and goes until Friday at the Vancouver Convention Centre. More than 150 resolutions, put forward by communities from across the province, will be under consideration.
– with files from the Surrey Leader