Small business exemption in new recycling program

Exemption is a huge relief for small business says chamber executive director Allan Asaph

Abbtosford business owner Thelma Henderson (second from left) and Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce executive director Allan Asaph are flanked by environment minister Mary Polak (left) and minister of state for small business Naomi Yamamoto. Asaph and Henderson were in Vancouver for the announcement of an amendment to the MMBC regulations.

Abbtosford business owner Thelma Henderson (second from left) and Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce executive director Allan Asaph are flanked by environment minister Mary Polak (left) and minister of state for small business Naomi Yamamoto. Asaph and Henderson were in Vancouver for the announcement of an amendment to the MMBC regulations.

Small businesses will catch a break in a new provincial recycling program that has raised numerous concerns for both businesses and municipalities.

The government has amended the Multi-Material B.C. (MMBC) regulations so that it will impact fewer than one per cent of B.C.’s businesses.

“This is a huge relief to our local business community,” said Allan Asaph, executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber.

“This change exempts the majority of our local businesses, including all of our ‘mom and pop’ shops, from new costs and red tape.”

The Abbotsford Chamber has had concerns about the program since it was announced, and along with the BC Chamber of Commerce has pushed the government for changes to reduce the impact on small business.

MMBC is an industry stewardship group made up of major retailers and producers which is set to take responsibility for collecting and recycling packaging and printed paper (PPP) by May. It requires businesses to register as stewards in the producer-pay system, meaning they would take on reporting duties and costs of supporting the system – a prospect that generated concerns for many small businesses.

On Tuesday, the government announced that it will exempt any B.C. business that has an annual revenue of less than $1 million, produces less than one tonne of packaging and printed paper produced annually, or has a single point of retail sale (and not supplied by or operated as part of a franchise, chain or under a banner).

That means that fewer than 3,000 businesses in the province will be captured by the regulation, out of more than 385,000.

“This exemption correctly balances environmental goals with business needs,” Asaph said.

Many municipalities have also expressed concerns about the program, which gave cities the option to commit to a contract to be a collector for MMBC, let the agency contract out blue box pickup to other collectors, or keep their current recycling services without compensation from MMBC.

Operating as a collector would mean the city would have to meet MMBC’s recycling standards, which would end curbside collection of recyclables like glass, film plastic and beverage containers, a service Abbotsford currently offers.

Allowing MMBC to contract out Abbotsford’s recycling pick-up would mean the city would no longer have control over the service – or the ability to address community complaints.

Opting out of the program entirely means consumers may have to pay for the recycling of PPP materials twice – first, in the cost of the product, which producers will build into the price, and again for the city’s recycling program.

Originally expected to make a decision by last September, MMBC extended the deadline for cities to make a decision.

City of Abbotsford staff have been in contact with MMBC and believe it is not likely the city would participate in the program until 2015 at the earliest. Council will decide in the future on the details and timing of any participation in the program.