As the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) publicly defended its involvement with Multi-Material BC (MMBC) last week, the Coast’s largest recycler said the program was a step backwards and had no social or environmental benefits for the community.
Appearing before Gibsons council on May 20, Gibsons Recycling Depot co-owner Buddy Boyd provided a list of about 50 products that he said would no longer be accepted at his depot under the MMBC program, which rolled out province-wide on May 19, but has been delayed on the Coast.
They include soft- and hard-covered books, foil gift-wrap, padded envelopes, cardboard boxes with wax coating, plastic wrap and blister packs, lawn edging, tarps, plastic furniture and toys, pots, pans, baking trays, glasses, dishes, window glass, mirrors, ceramic mugs and other ceramic products.
“There’s a massive amount of materials that can’t be recycled any longer, that’s going to have to go to the landfill,” Boyd told council. “In a nutshell, it seems like we’re going backwards.”
As well, he said, under MMBC there will be no opportunities for residents or businesses to reuse collected materials, “so that interferes with local economic development.”
Boyd pointed out that, in addition to the investments made over the years on infrastructure by non-profit and private-sector recyclers, local governments on the Coast have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on sustainability programs and consultant fees.
“We have to make a decision as a community,” he said. “Are we going to stick with our environmental agenda that we paid a lot of money for — sustainability, zero waste, conservation — or are we going to hand over control to outsiders who are basically going to dictate what we’re going to do in our community with these discarded materials that we consider, and many in British Columbia consider, as resources not discards?
“I don’t see any social or environmental benefit with MMBC. None. Zero. Zilch,” he added. “And diversion is going to go down. A wine bottle [without a label] has to go in the garbage. Half the plastics have to go in the garbage, ones that we recycle right now. And the fact that we can’t reuse any of this stuff locally, that’s insane.”
Boyd’s position was in sharp contrast to the presentation made one week earlier to council’s committee of the whole by SCRD manager of waste reduction and recovery, Jeremy Valeriote.
Valeriote said MMBC was expected to increase the types of packaging and printed-paper than can be dropped off for free by residents, listing Styrofoam/polystyrene, gable-top containers such as milk cartons, soy milk and soup containers, plastic plant pots, plastic clamshell containers and hot and cold drink cups.
(According to Gibsons Recycling Depot co-owner Barb Hetherington, all of those items except Styrofoam are accepted for free at her depot.)
Asked at the meeting whether a smaller variety of materials would be accepted under MMBC than under the current depot system, Valeriote said, “I believe the list of things that previously weren’t collected that will be collected is greater than the shorter list of things that won’t be collected.”
During his presentation, Valeriote said he was “not here to defend MMBC,” but pointed out that MMBC officials have stated they do not plan to incinerate residual materials collected under the program.
“They’ve committed not to send materials to waste-to-energy [facilities], and we don’t have any information contrary to that,” he said.
When Boyd appeared before council a week later, and argued that in his view the program would eventually feed Metro Vancouver’s incinerators, Mayor Wayne Rowe noted MMBC’s stated position.
“Get it in writing,” Boyd replied. “It’s all well and good that they say that, but get it in writing. We’ve asked MMBC for three years, ‘Put it in writing, put your name on it, no incineration, ever,’ and we’re still waiting.”
Rowe said council recognized that “we have a situation here,” though it was unclear how it would play out.
“I can’t speak for the rest of council, but I can say when I chose to stay with the depot option here, it was with your operation in mind, because of the other products that you look after that would not otherwise be looked after.”
Coun. Dan Bouman said he agreed with Boyd that the amount of diversion from the landfill will go down, “at least in the short term, for sure, because people are frustrated by the new rules and constraints. It’s not a good thing.”
Bouman said he wasn’t happy with the whole MMBC process, calling the group “disrespectful” to local governments by “always asking us to make some kind of decision for which they’re not providing adequate information for us to be comfortable about what we’re doing.”
From the point of view of the three recycling operators — in Gibsons, Sechelt and Pender Harbour — who have yet to sign contracts with the SCRD to work under the MMBC system, “the program is already officially launched and we’re no farther ahead than where we were a year ago,” Boyd said in response.
“The program rolled out yesterday. We have no idea how much we’re going to get paid. We don’t know what we’re going to handle. We don’t know if the equipment that we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on for processing is going to be used, our trucking the same thing. We’re probably talking over a half a million dollars of equipment that potentially could be sitting idle — and my banker still wants to get paid.”
The SCRD, meanwhile, launched a public information campaign that included a press release, issued May 20, reiterating MMBC’s statement on incineration, a letter to the editor from Valeriote (in today’s edition on page 9), and an FAQ sheet posted on its website.
“We realize that not everyone is going to agree with the SCRD’s decision to participate in the program,” the FAQ sheet said. “We respect, appreciate and encourage input and feedback from our community. Polite dialogue and engagement are an important part of this community; the people who come to work every day at the SCRD live and raise their families here. We did our due diligence regarding this program before deciding to join because we believe it will benefit recycling in this community.”
The three depots that were supposed to be contracted by the SCRD under the MMBC program were removed from the list on the MMBC website prior to the May 19 launch. No firm date has been set for the program’s rollout on the Coast.
Gibsons Recycling Depot co-owner Buddy Boyd appears before Gibsons council on May 20 to air his concerns about the Multi-Material BC program.
May 22, 2014
SCRD manager of waste reduction and recovery, Jeremy Valeriote spoke at the Gibsons committee of the whole meeting on May 13.
May 22, 2014
© Coast Reporter