Premier Christy Clark answers reporters' questions after addressing the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Friday.

Premier Christy Clark answers reporters' questions after addressing the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention on Friday.

Premier Clark critical of MMBC recycling rollout

Small business group (Canadian Federation of Independent Business) calls on province to 'reset' program

Premier Christy Clark is criticizing the rollout of a new recycling agency that has caused alarm among municipalities and businesses across the province.

Multi Material BC is slated to take charge of blue box pick-up next May when it becomes responsible for collecting and recycling all packaging and printed paper – at the provincial government’s direction.

“I recognize this wasn’t done well,” Clark said of the planned producer-pay system. “It’s been far too bumpy a ride. There is a lot more work to be done.”

The premier spoke to reporters Friday, a day after local politicians at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention passed a resolution demanding more time to negotiate acceptable contracts with MMBC to avert higher costs and the potential erosion of existing recycling services.

Clark agreed more time and flexibility is needed “so that local communities have a little bit of leverage in trying to put together the best deal that works for them.”

She said MMBC, a stewardship group formed of retailers and other packaging producers, must ensure its board includes British Columbians, not just industry representatives in Toronto.

Mike Klassen, B.C. director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, urged the premier to go further and “push the reset button” on the entire stewardship program for packaging and printed paper in light of widespread concern.

“Not only is it local government and public sector unions not happy with it, small business has very, very big concerns,” he said.

Any business that puts packaging or printed paper in the hands of B.C. residents and ultimately the waste stream must register with MMBC as stewards.

Some small businesses were unaware of the program until they were warned by MMBC they could face fines of up to $200,000 if they fail to register.

Small businesses are worried about unknown costs and the onerous workload they may face under MMBC’s model, Klassen said.

“Imagine what it would be like for a small restaurant with their name on the pizza box – they have to track all the weight and the amount of paper that they distribute with those pizzas they deliver and remit fees on a regular basis.”

Small businesses have been asked to sign contracts without knowing what the final fee schedule will be, he added.

“No small business in their right mind would sign that contract,” Klassen said. “This is the biggest issue we’ve seen come in from calls from our members in several years.”

MMBC has said it will take more time to determine the costs of the program and how to apportion then – and it will exempt businesses with revenues of less than $750,000 – but many businesses fear the request that they trust the new agency amounts to signing a blank cheque.

Klassen said part of the problem is that MMBC’s board consists of big business representatives who aren’t taking smaller firms’ needs into account.

He said it amounts to a Toronto-based “monopoly” and the province should pause implementation while it figures out how to ensure other stakeholders are better represented.

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