It’s not a new idea, but now there is a nation-wide plan for product stewardship that will be putting the cost of recycling on producers. The idea is to encourage both producers and buyers to opt for less packaging because it will be good for their budgets as well as the environment.
“We understand that consumers are concerned about what they are being charged,” said Lauren Rethoret, who works with the RDCK in Nelson. The worry is that people will be paying twice: once when they purchase a product and again when they pay their taxes for the recycling program.
But Rethoret said that isn’t the plan.
“The recycling programs will essentially be redundant,” she said, “and the taxes that people pay to run them, they won’t be necessary any more.”
In principle, the producer is the first seller of the product in B.C., which means it’s usually the importer or the manufacturer of the product. The expanding list of products which may be added to the recycling regulation list means that everything from pop cans to construction materials will have an associated fee that encourages people to choose an option with less packaging.
“The opportunity is there for consumers to have their say in terms of what products they purchase,” Rethoret added, agreeing that smaller centres generally have fewer options, one of the large drawbacks of the plan.
“There is no commitment to service levels for rural communities,” she noted, which is something the RDCK is pushing to get ironed out with the Ministry of Environment.
“These plans are getting approved by the Ministry without sufficient guidance about how they move forward,” Rethoret told the Arrow Lakes News, “The programs do well in urban areas where there are a lot of places that are willing to act as return depots but rural communities are generally areas that lose out.”
A good example of this kind of program is beginning October 1. A small appliance recycling program will be starting up in B.C. that tacks on a recycling fee to cover its costs.
But for rural residents who didn’t want to drive for hours to drop off their old toaster, the details were sketchy.
“For areas not served by depots, there will be scheduled collection events operated in collaboration with other organizations,” Brock Penner from the Unplugged program said, “While the team is assessing the geographical gaps, they are not yet at the stage of determining where and when collection events will be held and what organizations they will partner with.”
It is this lack of clear planning that makes Rethoret uneasy. Without a definite plan that ensures collection will take place regularly and reliably, what will encourage people to recycle products when it may be easier to simply dump them?
Rethoret said the responsibility to come up with a clear plan lies with the ministry as the regulating authority, as well as the producers and local government.
In order to develop a pragmatic plan with clear statements of commitment from all involved parties, the RDCK has requested the ministry host a meeting October 14 in Nelson. Local producers and recycling businesses will be represented as well as provincial and regional district levels of government.
The hope is that the transition from regional district management to producer-funded recycling will be seamless.
“The commitment is that service levels will remain the same. The recycling depot in Nakusp will remain operational,” Rethoret said, pointing out the only difference will be that the producers will pay for the operation for the depot and not the regional district.