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Buckerfield’s boss refusing to pay new recycling fee

Kelvin McCulloch, CEO of Duncan-based Buckerfield’s has plenty of questions about the MMBC recycling program scheduled for start-up in May. - Peter W. Rusland
Kelvin McCulloch, CEO of Duncan-based Buckerfield’s has plenty of questions about the MMBC recycling program scheduled for start-up in May.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Kelvin McCulloch is a David against what he sees as Goliath recycling fees facing many B.C. companies producing printed paper and packaging.

To the Buckerfield’s CEO, Goliath is Multi-Materials B.C., a non-profit stewardship agency tasked by provincial legislation to collect recycling fees from large companies.

Locally, those fees will subsidize North Cowichan, Duncan, Lake Cowichan, Ladysmith and CVRD recycling programs at about $34 per household.

But McCulloch says since Buckerfield’s already funds recycling through property taxes, his eight stores won’t pay MMBC until his questions about transparency, democracy and economics are answered.

He figured the Duncan-based firm would pay MMBC about $60,000 a year for recycling its feed bags, shopping bags and more — plus about $35,000 each of his stores pays in property taxes.

McCulloch’s sling shot holds legal opinions about MMBC’s contracts, plus counter-proposals to help other businesses facing the same fees — like big-box stores and newspaper chains — cope.

“Business leaders are in shock and don’t know what to do,” he said. “If (increased) recycling fees were charged through (business and home) property taxes, it would be far less than MMBC’s fees.”

He wants watchdogging by B.C.’s auditor general, and other safeguards put in place.

“They could direct funds wherever they want; there’s no accountability,” he said, noting MMBC sets its own fees based on printed-paper and packaging volumes.

“They just have to show they’re a non-profit agency.”

But MMBC’s Allen Langdon had a far simpler message about the firms he said have basically had a free ride on taxpayer-paid recycling costs for years.

“The more packaging you put into the market, the more your fees are. It’s designed to make a level playing field.”

Langdon said McCulloch had not contacted him, adding Buckerfield’s feed bags and more won’t be subject to fees unless the material goes to homes, not farms.

“McCulloch’s really challenging the government,” he said, noting some 850 of about 2,500 large firms generating printing and packaging have signed with MMBC.

“Residents actually benefit because MMBC will provide payments to defray recycling costs,” he said, adding MMBC must provide the province annual audited financial statements and other materials.

MMBC developed its stewardship plan with wide consultation with chambers of commerce and business leaders, noted Langdon. Not everyone agreed with the plan, he acknowledged, but MMBC “held public meetings and webinars to reach out to different groups.”

And municipalities were also informed.

“There were probably 14 motions at Union of B.C. Municipalities conferences over the years. We had over two years of workshops including those with municipalities,” Langdon said.

“At the end of the day is MMBC is a collective. We’re about as transparent an organization as we can be. We have nothing to hide.”

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