Publisher calls province’s recycling rules ‘extortion’

A stalemate has occurred between B.C.'s newspaper industry and the RDCK.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay is calling on the province to crack down on the newspaper industry to join a provincial recycling stewardship program. However, an industry executive says if they were forced to pay the proposed fees, a number of papers would have to shut down to meet the costs.

“We simply cannot afford the millions of dollars this would cost the newspaper industry,” John Hinds, the CEO of Newspapers Canada, an industry group, told the Star. “It would put a significant number of newspapers at risk if we were forced to pay the Multi-Material BC (MMBC) fees as they stand. Look at what happened in Nanaimo and Kamloops [where newspapers recently closed]. Look at what is happening around the country.”

The RDCK board passed a motion in February to urge BC’s environment minister to pressure the industry to comply with regulations that require producers of paper and packaging to pay for the recycling of their products.

MMBC is the non-profit stewardship organization tasked with getting BC industries, rather than taxpayers, to pay for recycling the paper and packaging it produces. MMBC collects, processes, and sells recycled material, and about 1,300 producers of paper and packaging in BC pay them to do this.

Businesses that produce paper and packaging are required by BC law to have an approved stewardship plan to recycle their waste. But the newspaper industry has so far declined to join MMBC, in an apparent contravention of that regulation. This is a problem for the RDCK.

MMBC doesn’t cover all areas of the province. It has never set up shop in some rural areas, including some parts of West Kootenay, because it says it can’t afford to expand its services further until the newspaper industry signs on. MMBC wants the newspaper industry to pay $200 per ton to recycle the province’s newsprint. According to Hinds, this would amount to about $10 million per year.

“To pay that price would mean for example in the West Kootenay I would close three marginal small town newspapers, and curtail the number of copies that we put out,” says Rick O’Connor, the president of Black Press, which publishes six papers in the West Kootenay including the Star.

Asked to respond to the industry’s contention that it would have to close papers, MMBC’s Allen Langdon said “This regulation has been in place since 2011. They have had a long time to think through how it would comply with the legislation and try and work something out with government.”

Some RDCK population centres including Nelson, Kaslo, and Castlegar have contracts with MMBC, but rural areas don’t,and it is costing the regional district to recycle in those areas, according to chief administrator Stuart Horn. The RDCK has asked MMBC to take over, only to be told they can’t afford to take on new areas until the newspaper industry comes on board.

Hinds says he doesn’t believe MMBC when it says it can’t afford to expand their service because the organization reported a $33-million surplus in its last fiscal year. Langdon says that money is a reserve.

“Our entire program costs $80 million per year,” Langdon said, “so we set a target of a reserve of about half the annual requirements. We are a non-profit so we had always planned to develop a reserve because we don’t have assets or other types of capital to rely on if commodity markets drops.

“If I were to expand the program,” he continued, “the current members who are meeting their obligations and are good corporate citizens would be forced to subsidize the companies that have not joined and not met their obligations.”

O’Connor and Hinds say MMBC is asking for more money from newspaper publishers than recycling programs in other provinces. They say the original deal with MMBC would have seen the newspaper industry contribute millions of dollars worth of advertising promoting recycling. Langdon disagrees and says there was a draft agreement but MMBC didn’tsign it because “our members could not agree because it would have meant them subsidizing the newspaper industry.”

O’Connor disputes that version. “MMBC had their lawyers write the agreement and presented it to newspapers to sign. After some negotiations, newspapers signed the agreement. MMBC was then taken over by the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance who refused to sign their own agreement.”

Hinds says MMBC’s asking price of $200 per ton is “four or five times what newspapers pay in other provinces.” Comparison with other provinces is complex because each province has different regulations and systems. In Ontario and Quebec,newspaper publishers pay in-kind with advertising. In Manitoba the government pays the newspaper industry’s fees. In Saskatchewan newspapers are exempt from the system.

“[In all provinces] the idea is that everyone contributes but the newspaper industry doesn’t want to,” says Langdon. “From our perspective our program is probably the most progressive and leading edge in the country and the one where we are having the most success engaging directly with producers on how to work with them to adapt to change their packaging. That is exciting and is something we should be proud of.”

Asked what the newspaper industry is doing to resolve this stalemate, O’Connor admitted nothing has changed. “We have been trying to work with the provincial government to come up with our own stewardship plan to meet the obligations underthe regulations but not through MMBC, and we were hoping the government would approve StewardsChoice, which wepropose to be a competitive vehicle to MMBC. It is not that we are opposed to recycling, it is that we are opposed to being extorted by MMBC.”

Hinds says the government made a mistake lumping newsprint in with packaging. He says newspapers should be treated not as a package “like a yogurt container” but as “a product with social value” which, he adds, brings higher prices on the recycling market than most kinds of packaging, and which is already being successfully recycled by 80 per cent of BC residents. O’Connor said MMBC is keeping the revenue of recycled newsprint, estimated currently at $60 per tonne.

Asked what he would say to the RDCK board, O’Connor said “If MMBC is telling you the reason they can’t increase service is because newspapers have not paid their exorbitant fee, I would say that that is not true. We never indicated that we would paytheir fee and we will go to court before that happens. The industry is pretty adamant about this. MMBC is using this fantasy that newspapers are not paying this $200 as an excuse for not serving the West Kootenay.”

Asked the same question, Hinds said “You have to look at the value of newspapers in the community and it is an untenable cost to newspapers currently, and we simply can’t afford it. We would absolutely have to shut some papers down.”

Langdon, asked what he would say to the RDCK, said, “I think the action being taken by the regional district [lobbying the minister] is the only course of action available to them at this juncture.”

The Star asked the ministry what it is doing to bring the newspaper industry into the fold. It replied by email: “The ministry continues to pursue compliance with all freeriding producers, including newspapers and is inactive discussions with the newspaper industry to find a solution.”

 

Just Posted

Buddhist monument to be dedicated in Slocan cemetery

A new post has been created to mark the site where at least nine Japanese Canadians were cremated

Passenger counts still rising at West Kootenay Regional Airport

Reliability rates also on rise in second quarter.

Andrew Bellerby out as RDCK’s regional fire chief

Bellerby held the job since January 2016

Craft cannabis development planned for Castlegar

Plans are underway for one of the first craft cannabis industrial parks in the province.

Abra Brynne wins Kootenay-Columbia Green Party nomination

Brynne is one of three candidates who will challenge MP Wayne Stetski

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

Northern B.C. double homicide, suspicious death: A timeline of what we know

Two teens from Port Alberni are now wanted Canada-wide in connection to the three deaths

B.C. teacher suspended for professional misconduct

Grade 8 shop teacher admits to use of vulgar language and profanities toward students

B.C. wine industry legend Harry McWatters dies

Among his accomplishments, McWatters founded the province’s first estate winery, Sumac Ridge Estate

Provincial health body refuses to release full findings of cancer triage system audit

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions

Southern resident killer whale died of blunt trauma, likely from ship

J34 was found more than two years ago near Sechelt, but the necropsy findings have now been released

B.C. rail crossing death highlights risks for people in wheelchairs: watchdog

Transportation Safety Board points to ‘persistent risks faced by persons using assistive devices’

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Nelson’s net-zero ready house is a glimpse into B.C.’s future

One local builder set out to construct the province’s ideal energy efficient home

Most Read