Nanaimo could finalize a deal with a non-profit group of paper and packaging producers by the end of November.
City hall is in talks with Multi-Material British Columbia, a recycling agency led by the private sector. The group was formed after the province updated its recycling regulations in 2011, which saw the responsibility for managing residential recycling of printed paper and packaging - termed 'PPP' - shifted from local governments to industry and consumers instead. Under an agreement proposed by MMBC, the recycling group would pay the city an annual fee of approximately $900,000 to collect the PPP materials on its behalf.
The arrangement would be about revenue-neutral for the city, but residents would see their recycling collection fees dip about $35.25 starting in 2014, since the city would no longer have to charge for the service. The city would continue to run the curbside program though its contractor BFI Canada.
Industry partners like the Canadian Community Newspaper Association have dropped their membership in MMBC and are the threatening to pull out of the Blue Box program if it proceeds as planned.
"Without newspaper recycling, the Blue Box programs would collapse," said British Columbia Yukon Community Newspaper president Hugh Nicholson.
At $140 a ton, recycled newsprint is the most valuable piece in the Blue Box.
A number of municipalities also expressed concern and scepticism about the plan at the recent UBCM conference, and as a result the province has ordered further study and consultations.
The city received a draft contract from MMBC last week, said Gary Franssen, Nanaimo sanitation, recycling and cemeteries manager. He said major details of the agreement presented to council in August remain unchanged, and said staff members on both sides are reviewing the "specifics" of the proposed agreement.
MMBC is also in talks with other municipalities across the province as part of the transition to the new arrangement.
Franssen said the new system is one of several changes Nanaimo customers could see in the coming months.
The city is phasing out the collection of plastic grocery bags by asking residents to stop putting them into the familiar yellow recycling bags.
Instead, the city wants customers to return the plastic bags for recycling at grocery stores and the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange.
Franssen said the reason for the change is that there is an increasing mix in terms of the chemical composition of the grocery bags, such as biodegradable materials. This makes recycling the bags more difficult and costly.
"It's no longer a clear stream for us," Franssen said.
Franssen said the city is also looking at expanding the range of recyclable materials it collects, although he declined to mention specifics. Glass containers, Styrofoam and "difficult to collect" items will continue to be collected at recycling depots as opposed to at the curbside.
Details on the proposals will appear in the city's fall Waste Line Newsletter on Oct. 30.
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