The Multi-Material BC (MMBC) Corporation has responded to an invoice sent by the Regional District of East Kootenay(RDEK), with the organization telling the RDEK it has no intention of paying.

In April 2016, the RDEK sent a $764,000 invoice to MMBC for costs the RDEK incurred collecting and processing recyclable materials identified in the recycling regulation of B.C. and part of the Packaging and Printed Paper Stewardship Plan operated by MMBC — a move that RDEK directors said, at the time, was meant to highlight the lack of recycling service provided by MMBC to rural and remote areas such as the East Kootenay.

The RDEK board of directors received, at their Friday, June 10th meeting, a reply from MMBC managing director Allen Langdon, in which Langdon writes that MMBC will “not be honouring” the invoice, and that if the RDEK “wish to be placed on MMBC’s wait list, (it) will need to be in a position to comply with the mandatory requirement of secured and supervised bins.”

The invoice stems from money the RDEK spent collecting household recyclables through its yellow bin program. When MMBC took over over responsibility for most recycling programs in B.C. in May 2014, it told the RDEK the yellow bin program would “not fit” MMBC’s service model.

In the yellow bin program, 739 large yellow dumpster bins are placed in East Kootenay communities, usually near businesses, schools or in other prominent locations, for commercial, residential, industrial and institutional use to collect recyclable materials. To make the invoice, RDEK staff calculated how much of the waste collected in the yellow bins came from residential sources.

“RDEK’s bins are not staffed and therefore fall outside of the the requirements for depots in MMBC’s program that any bins must be secured and supervised,” wrote Langdon, adding “MMBC has no plans to include unstaffed bins in the programs due to contamination concerns.”

“The response from MMBC is what I expected, bringing attention to the issue. The way that some parts of rural B.C. collects recyclables doesn’t fit the model that MMBC offers,” RDEK Area F director Wendy Booth told The Echo just prior to the RDEK board meeting, adding “the Ministry of Environment has a target of 75 per cent compliance across the province, which I believe MMBC is meeting, however the target should be 75 per cent in each region, as some areas of the province are not meeting that target.”

“My initial response was I called it (the MMBC response) a load of horse poo, but it doesn’t come as a surprise. We all knew they wouldn’t pay,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking the afternoon after the meeting. “They have a whole bunch of excuses about why they don’t provide service. It’s really frustrating. They have a one-size-fits-all model that works well in urban centres and densely populated areas, but doesn’t work at all in the more rural areas, such as the East Kootenay.”

That MMBC model is centred around curbside pickup, and offers no scope for something such as the yellow bin program, he said, adding that if the RDEK were to comply with the MMBC’s requirements, it would likely mean having three or four supervised yellow bins through the whole East Kootenay, instead of the current 739 unsupervised ones.

“That’s their model. If we were to try to apply that in our area, it would mean a decrease in service in our area compared with what we have now. It would be more difficult to recycle, since there would be fewer options to recycle. That, in my mind, would be step backward,” said Taft, adding the end result is that, for now, the RDEK is pretty much stuck continuing to tax residents to provide the yellow bin program and essentially doing the work MMBC should be doing.

“And that means in our area, and other areas in a similar situation, consumers are paying twice. Private companies are embedding the cost of the program into the products they sell. In areas where MMBC provides service, those are the only costs for residents. Here residents are paying those embedded product costs and then they are also paying the tax for the yellow-bin program,” said Taft. “The solution rests with the province. The province created this mess; the province should fix it. It really comes down to money. (The RDEK) getting at least some money for the yellow bin program would be better than getting nothing as we currently are.”

The MMBC could not be reach for comment on the matter prior to press deadline.