City of Terrace confident it can reach recycling goals

But other municipalities are worried about costs and fines associated with new plan

CITY STAFFERS are confident citizens will respond to a new-look curbside recycling program coming in next May and so avoid stiff penalties for failing to meet specific standards.

The city has already agreed to a contract with a new province-wide recycling agency and is due to make it official Sept. 16, the deadline day to sign a contract.

Terrace’s curbside program through the Multi-Material BC agency will cover most cardboard, paper, plastics and glass, but not other waste products such as plastic drink bottles.

It means taxpayers will have to pay attention to what they put out for recycling because the city faces fines for mixing up recyclables with other material.

City sustainability coordinator Tara Irwin said public education will be vital to avoid penalties of up to $5,000 per load considered contaminated with non-recyclables.

Beginning next May, city workers will pick up recyclables every two weeks and regular garbage in the off weeks.

At the beginning of the program, clear plastic bags will be provided by the city so city employees can see what’s inside.

“We chose to start this year with clear plastic bags because it will allow the drivers to inspect bags and make sure that people are only putting in their bags what is allowed, because we can only have up to 3 per cent contamination,” said Irwin.

“We don’t have the money set aside to pay for any of those penalties,” Irwin continued, adding that the truck drivers will leave behind loads containing the wrong material.

The city-collected recyclables will be taken to a depot managed by the new recycling agency.

Multi-Material BC is made up of producers of various products and retailers who sell those products and it has been given the job of collecting packaging, containers and other material that eventually ends up in the hands of consumers.

The agency is prepared to subsidize municipal curbside collection but also says it needs to ensure there’s a steady stream of material to be recycled.

On average, says the agency, each household needs to produce more than 135 kilograms per year of recycled material to make the program financially feasible.

If the per-household weight falls below that weight, then eventually it “may result in an equitable downward change in the fees.”

Allen Langdon from Multi-Material BC said there are three main categories for penalties including contamination, labour disruption, and late reporting of services.

“It’s important to producers because they are the ones who are funding this program,” Langdon added.

“What they say is that ‘we understand we are responsible for our material, but we don’t want to have to pay for a bunch of stuff that isn’t printed paper or packaging.’”

Langdon also wants to assure member service providers—the municipalities and private companies who will have to work together to see recycled material through the processing chain—that penalties won’t be given out will-nilly.

“There’s a pretty extensive process in A determining if there is a problem, B verifying if in fact it is a problem, and C working with the collector in question, if it’s a local government, in developing a remediation plan to address the issues. If the plan works then I don’t think we have an issue,” he said.

Terrace will receive approximately $134,000 a year to pick up recyclable material.

While Terrace is ready to sign a contract, other municipalities are not, citing the prospect of high penalties and unknown costs.

Those municipalities want the Sept. 16 deadline put off so they can sign better deals with Multi-Material BC.