Follow the money in the flawed Kamloops recycling regime

Plain Rhetoric
By Bill McQuarrie
June 27, 2017 - 5:00am
Image Credit: CFJC Today

KAMLOOPS — Does the City of Kamloops, or should I say, Kamloops City Council actually believe in and support recycling, or are they in it just for the money?

I ask, as it seems the City still wants our annual recycling fee but doesn’t want to actually collect everything that could be recycled. They also assume we all have a vehicle and will happily take what they, the City, refuse to collect, to one of three private recyclers.

It seems they want our “recycle” money while simultaneously reducing the actual service and harming our environment. Then they want us to use our vehicles and spend more money driving across town to the private recycler who will likely make us stand in line and pay us nothing. And finally, adding insult to injury, they will fine anyone who puts the wrong recyclables in the curb-side recycle bin they forced us to use in the first place.

They also seem to be quite serious about the ‘enforcement’ of this recycling policy and have actually hired people to inspect your recycle bin. The recycling enforcement patrol will check out and put stickers on your bins and warn and/or fine you if you were careless enough to have broken the rules.  

It would seem City Council is intent on making sure you never put recyclable goods in your recyclable bin that are not preapproved and pre-inspected by the City. Does it not seem a touch on the ludicrous side that we are paying people to make sure we are not recycling glass and thin film plastics? Some might even call this a big step backwards.

Glass and thin film plastics are items that will remain in our landfill forever, something our recycling program once diverted through our homegrown recycling program. Worse yet, you will be punished if you actually attempt to be a good citizen of planet Earth and recycle.

The sad truth is that most people will stop recycling these items and will instead toss those recyclables into the garbage, which according to the City, is legal and perfectly acceptable.

When I am confused by questionable government decisions and want to try and figure out why, I find it helpful to go back to the old journalistic proverb, ‘follow the money’. Right now, the money trail leads to a new annual payment to the City of $1,000,000.00 from Recycle BC (a business consortium) that is now added to the City’s continued collection of recycle fees on our utility bill. A bit of taxpayer double-dipping by government.

Recycle BC, formerly known as Multi Material BC, is the creation of our provincial government. It was their attempt to make industries that manufacture or package using materials that are recyclable, responsible for the collection and recycle costs. The province, in its wisdom, decided to encourage all municipalities to abandon whatever solutions they were using and instead, sign a contract with Recycle BC. The carrot was the promise to pay an annual fee to each municipality that signed on. And the cost was the new business-like approach of only accepting profitable and easily handled recyclables.

I asked Acting Mayor Arjun Singh about the decisions that led to this situation and specifically why homeowners are still being charged the utility fee. The Mayor explained the continuation of fees as being the result of the recycling program starting in the spring and an inability by the City to make the necessary changes to stop charging homeowners until next year’s budget for 2018.

Mr. Singh went on to explain that City Council is aware of the problems and Council will be reviewing the recycling program later this fall and has several options to consider, including doing nothing while continuing to collect the million as well as the utility fees, something that I feel is unlikely. Another option would be to refund this year’s fees and cease billing on our 2018 utility charges. Or it could bring back a separate curbside recycling program to include those items now forbidden, including bio waste such as lawn clippings, leaves etc.

So what would you like to see the City do? Here’s your opportunity to congratulate them on a job well done and a plan well implemented. Or offer some suggestions and encouragement on how best to untangle the inequities of this recycling mess we now find ourselves in.