Maple Ridge received a million-dollar offer to partner with a new agency in recycling, but councillors appear to have been put off by a tight deadline and the take-it-or-leave-it nature of the deal,
In May 2011 the province made industry responsible for recycling of packaging and paper, with a goal to raise the recycling rate of this material from an estimated 50-57 per cent up to 75 per cent. A not-for-profit agency called Multi-Material British Columbia (MMBC) was established to develop a stewardship plan to collect, process and re-sell the recycled material.
This week, councillors across the province are arriving back at city halls after a summer break to find they are facing a Sept. 16 deadline to accept a proposal that would overhaul their city’s recycling services.
The dollars are significant. On June 17, MMBC offered the district an incentive of $40.25 per household, which would be more than $1 million in Maple Ridge.
The district has been given three options:
• take the incentive and continue collecting recyclables, essentially operating as a contractor for MMBC, which would then sell the recycled materials – which is a valuable commodity once collected and sorted;
• decline the offer and get out of the recycling business – leaving MMBC responsible for curbside collection in the district;
• ignore the offer and continue with the 41-year-old recycling program in Maple Ridge.
At Monday morning’s council workshop, a number of councillors and staff members were harshly critical of the MMBC pitch.
“We’re being treated like a contractor, as opposed to a partner, in this process,” Frank Quinn, general manager of public works and development services, said in objecting to the proposal.
“Even though MMBC had three years to deal with this, the recommendations are coming weeks before the deadline,” he added.
“My first reaction is to say, ‘no, let’s stay where we’re at,’” said Coun. Al Hogarth. “They’re trying to make a one-size-fits-all program, which just doesn’t work.”
“And they haven’t even addressed the main issue here, and that’s the reduction of this stuff,” he added. “We should be screaming at the top of our lungs: ‘You guys are way off track.’”
“They brought it together at the final hour and put the pressure on us, and that is totally unacceptable.”
Coun. Mike Morden echoed those concerns.
“I would never sign a contract like that in business,” he said.
“You can’t follow the money trail,” said Morden. “Do we know the financial bottom line change for the people of Maple Ridge? Can we even estimate that?
“We need to strive for 100 per cent recycling, and this doesn’t address that.”
Quinn recommended a response that could see the district accepting the financial incentives, but negotiating a contract with more favourable terms.
Coun. Corisa Bell disagreed, saying that would send mixed signals.
“They’re just getting us one step closer to where they would like us to be.”
Hogarth shared her opinion.
“I think we have a phenomenal program that meets our community’s challenges,” said Hogarth. “I want them [MMBC] to stay out of our back yard.”
Kim Day, executive director of the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society, said last year the sale of recyclable materials covered almost half of the $3 million budget for the local program.
Residents pay just $35 per household each year for recycling, and get weekly pickup.
The MMBC plan would offer bi-weekly pickup, she said.
The local recycling society’s operation in the Albion Industrial Park employs 62 people, including 26 adults with developmental disabilities.
“The concept of extended producer responsibility is good – make them responsible for the costs,” said Day. “There’s some concerns with the way they’re choosing to roll out the program.”
MMBC Managing director Allen Langdon said there are different contracts for communities based on their size, but they are generally uniform.
“We have tried to use standard terms to ensure we are treating all our collectors the same,” he said.
The deal is not non-negotiable.
“There are parts of the contract we’re willing to negotiate, but we’re essentially procurring services.”
Langdon said municipalities are being given right of first refusal for curbside collection, then the service will be put to competitive bids.
He conceded that the tight time frame given municipalities is an issue, but added “we’ve already had a number of municipalities accept the offer.”
Langdon said MMBC will have an annual budget of $100 million, which will be incorporated into the cost of goods.
Council was scheduled to finalize its response at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Clarification: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Coun. Mike Morden as a chiropractor.