New recycling program "will make HST look like a walk in the park" says business group

Critics are sounding the alarm about a new recycling program set to come into effect this May.

The Ministry of Environment has appointed Multi Material BC (MMBC), a not-for-profit private organization working on behalf of industry, to manage the new program which is expected to cost industry $85 million annually.

MMBC will collect fees for the end-of-life recycling of packaging and printed paper. In 2011, B.C. passed a regulation stipulating that businesses that supply packaging and printed paper to B.C. consumers are responsible for collecting and recycling the materials after consumers are finished with it.

Currently municipalities pay for the collection themselves, and charge it back to residents either as a utility fee or as part of their general taxes.

Mike Klassen of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the program will result in a mountain of paperwork for small businesses, which could lead to job losses and closures.

“It’s a hidden tax and it’s just going to pummel consumers, and for small businesses, it’s lights out. There are going to be layoffs, and this thing is going to make HST look like a walk in the park.”

“These people are going to be collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of fees, which will go straight out of people’s household budgets,” says Klassen.

MMBC Managing Director Allen Langdon says that “truly small businesses” will not be impacted by the program.

“Less than 1 per cent of the businesses in B.C. will be impacted, we don’t want to add another layer of administrative bureaucracy on truly small businesses. For businesses producing between one to five tons of packaging, they would be reporting less than once a year and it would take less than half an hour after initial setup.”

Langdon says the MMBC program will help provide new data about recycling that we haven’t seen before. Curbside recycling will also be expanded into communities such as Terrace and 100 Mile House where it’s not currently offered, and 10 new materials will be added to the blue box including milk cartons, aerosol containers and plant pots.

NDP MLA and small business critic Lana Popham says most small businesses don’t even understand the program.

“Even now, there’s businesses that don’t know if they will have to do the paperwork involved. Small businesses are contacting me, saying they are getting bullied into the program. They don’t understand it, and the administration of it is abysmal.”

Langdon says many small businesses are not aware of the program, because it doesn’t apply to them.

“Part of the reason a lot of small businesses are not aware, is because they will not be impacted by the program.”

Langdon says between 2,000 and 3,000 businesses will need to register with the program, less than one per cent of the more than 385,000 businesses in B.C.

“Our proposed small biz policy provides exemptions for business that meet any one of the following criteria: they have less than 1 million in sales, less than 1 ton of packaging, or they operate a single point of retail sale. Businesses that meet any of these thresholds do not have to deal with MMBC.”

Popham says she thinks recycling is a great idea, but the amount of paperwork involved in the MMBC program is too onerous.

“MMBC’s recommendations are ‘ensure your legal or regulatory department is aware,’ — well most small businesses don’t have those.”

© 2014 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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