Businesses told recycling train has left the station

Buckerfield’s CEO Kelvin McCulloch says his meeting with the minister about looming packaging fees did not have the results he was looking for. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Buckerfield’s CEO Kelvin McCulloch says his meeting with the minister about looming packaging fees did not have the results he was looking for.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

A Cowichan businessman’s drive to derail corporate fees for recycling printed paper and packaging lost steam with B.C.’s environment minister.

Despite what he described as a disappointing meeting with minister Mary Polak, Buckerfield’s CEO Kelvin McCulloch is continuing to enlist business brass in his ongoing battle to sidetrack Victoria’s Multi-Materials B.C. plan.

“It was basically three quarters of an hour listening to her explain how the train had left the station,” he said of his April 4 huddle.

He said Polak told him the MMBC plan — to collect fees from paper and packaging producers based on how much they produce, then use the proceeds to fund municipal recycling programs — has gone too far to stop now.

“(Polak explained) ‘we’re listening, but it’s too late to do anything. Municipal budgets are set for the year, and those funds (MMBC) are factored in,’” he told the News Leader Pictorial.

“I handed Polak a written proposal for a 1% surcharge on property taxes to replace MMBC,” he said. “That would go to the province to be allocated by a new body, created by legislation, that would be a regional recycling authority.

“Polak did not look at it, and I’ve heard nothing.”

Under McCulloch’s surcharge proposal, his eight Buckerfield’s stores would pay about $3,000 to fund recycling, as opposed to the $60,000 hike he’s facing under MMBC.

His concerns also include what he considers double taxation and the transparency of the program.

Industries negatively affected by the program include the farm industry, the newspaper industry, landscapers, bottle depots, waste management companies, the manufacturing and export industry, and the printing industry, all backed by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

McCulloch has the backing of about 50 B.C. corporate bosses who believe an alternate plan could be engineered by 2015.

“There’s never been any debate with companies about them paying their fair share,” he said.

He is urging other businesses to sign and submit their MMBC contract but then give notice to the government that they won’t pay fees or otherwise cooperate with the new system to collect packaging and printed paper.

McCulloch intends to gather opt-out letters from numerous businesses across B.C. and deliver them to the province.

If the MMBC rollout continues, he said, they will argue in court  that the MMBC contracts were invalid and they were coerced to join the government-created recycling monopoly.

“We’re fairly confident at this point it will be struck down,” McCulloch said. “No company in their right mind would sign that contract of their own free will.”

The province contends MMBC is voluntary and various industries could instead form their own separate waste-collecting organization.

That option is not practical or reasonable, McCulloch said.

“The suggestion that we are able to launch or own stewardship program independent of MMBC is a sham.”

North Cowichan and the CVRD support the program because it will pay them about $34 per household to continue operating their recycling programs — nearly double what those programs cost to operate. The CVRD will funnel the difference into a reserve that is slated to be used to expand the recycling program. North Cowichan plans to use its savings to fund more education program and perhaps pass something on to the taxpayer.

Meanwhile, McCulloch said rerouting Polak’s problematic, metaphoric train will get tougher with time.

“The train’s moving slowly now, and there’s no load on it,” he said. “It’s in its infancy, but the longer it goes on, the harder it becomes to change it.”

— with a file from Jeff Nagel


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