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Packaging, paper next on recycling list

It began decades ago with the recycling of old newspapers. Next spring, the circle will be almost complete, when packaging and printed paper is required by B.C. to be recycled – everything from wrapping on bars of soap, to wrappers on bars of chocolate to the chesterfield you’re about to bring home.

You won’t notice much in your own blue box and recycling bags however, nor at the till when you’re buying your groceries or goodies.

What could change is the money flow behind the production, collection and recycling of the mega tonnes of stuff that’s bought and tossed away daily.

What still has to bet worked out is “just who’s paying for it,” said Kim Day, executive-director at Ridge Meadows Recycling Society.

Multi Material B.C. is the umbrella agency involving retailers and manufacturers, charged with preparing a recycling plan for packaging and printed paper (office paper, newsprint, telephone books, etc.) and presenting it to the Ministry of Environment by Nov. 19. Implementation comes six months later.

The brainstorming is still going on but consumers and businesses might not even notice the difference once a new system is in place.

Allen Langdon with Multi-Material, said a company’s recycling charge will be based on the amount of packaging used on its products and the type of material, whether it’s plastic or cardboard or paper.

Calculated on a per-unit basis would work out to a negligible charge for each item sold, said Langdon, meaning it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pass on to consumers.

“It’s unlikely because the cost would be less than a cent a unit.”

Each company will have to decide how to recoup costs but they won’t appear in the form of a surcharge or levy on consumer items.

“Nothing the consumer will ever see. We’re not going to see visible surcharges.”

Langdon though said Multi-Material B.C. wants to have a say in the collection of recyclables to see if there is a more efficient way, noting recycling operations now are set up along municipal boundaries.

“There’s no chance to optimize the systems because each municipality runs its own system.”

He notes the Capital Regional District in Victoria manages all of the recycling for the area.

“The goal is to try to make this as seamless as possible.”

Currently, four industry associations and four companies make up Multi-Material but membership could grow into the thousands once the system’s in place.

Day pointed out a similar system’s already in place in Ontario and Manitoba, but B.C. is the only province where manufacturers have to pay all of the cost of recycling the products.

“We’re one of the leaders in putting it forward with 100 per cent paid by manufacturers.”

Just what local recyclers’ role, such as the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society will be, is difficult to predict.

“It’s hard to say,” said Day. “It’s a whole range of, “we might not be involved in it anymore to nothing will change.”

One scenario could see Multi Material B.C. pay Ridge Meadows Recycling for its recyclables. That could reduce the amount of funding from the municipality.

Currently about half of depot’s revenue comes from selling commodities (such as plastic) and from recyclables collected under extended producer responsibility programs.

Day said the goal of the government is to dissuade manufacturers from using non-recyclable packaging and to reduce their packaging.

For instance, Tetra-type drink or soup containers are difficult to recycle, which could persuade manufacturers to use simpler packaging.

Packaging could change, soon, if manufacturers are hit in the pocket book.

“They won’t be packaging the same way. It’s wasteful packaging.”

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