BC’s newspaper industry is pressing the panic button as the province gets ready to launch a new environmental program that will see a shift of recycling responsibility go from municipal governments to producers, including companies that sell paper.
The newspapers say the new program will do nothing to help the environment and will hurt businesses.
There are also predictions that the extra costs will be passed on to the consumer.
“I know that it will affect some of the larger papers significantly. I think to some, it will be disastrous,” says the publisher of the Okanagan Advertiser in Armstrong.
Will Hansma is no fan of BC’s new Multi-Material (MMBC) recycling system that will see companies which sell paper and packaging materials pay a fee to a stewardship program.
Hansma says the newspaper industry is going to feel the brunt of the changes because they will have to pay a fee up front to MMBC — losing $14 million a year across the province.
Rick O’Connor is CEO of Black Press, the largest newspaper publisher in B.C. He says his company would be forced to cut up to 500 employees if they were forced to comply with the measure.
“Like all legacy media, we’re going restructuring that is sometimes painful, and we have to find new ways of doing business…if you add on this fee, you’re going to see a lot of newspaper job losses and closures.”
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Hansma says the newspapers aren’t the only ones who will suffer. He says the consumer will also feel the pinch.
“Some of the small pizza joints, they’re really going to suffer,” says Hansma. “There’s going to be a dramatic cost for their boxing. For McDonalds or any of those companies, there’s going to be costs associated with packaging of their product and that’s always, no matter how you play it through the system, it’s always going to come back to the consumer to pay for.”
But BC Environment Minister Mary Polak says industry, like newspapers, have the choice of opting out of the program, but only if they come up with their own recycling program.
“Right now taxpayers, local property taxpayers are the ones who are burdened with the costs of dealing with packaging and printed paper after its life is done,” says Polak. “Instead, we believe the people who produce the packaging and printed paper ought to be the ones who pay for disposing of it.”
In response to concerns from small business, MMBC has put in exemptions for businesses that make less than $1 million per year.
But Hasma says that makes no sense.
“That’s complete nonsense,” he says. “We are going to be impacted regardless because we have to buy the product from manufacturers that do well over $1 million worth of business.”
While industry is going to paying more and likely passing on the extra costs to the consumer, the taxpayer stands to gain somewhat through MMBC.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan says curbside collection fees should actually drop under the new system.
“The taxpayer will see a reduction in what they’re paying for curbside collection and for their depot service because the program is being funded by MMBC,” says RDCO Waste Reduction Manager, Peter Rotheisler. “They’re making payments to us to operate the program and in our contract with MMBC we’re not allowed to double charge residents. They’re being charged up front when they’re buying products, we’re not allowed to charge them a second time for the same program on their taxes and utility bills.”
MMBC kicks in May 19.