Municipalities in New Brunswick could save millions of dollars a year if the province required the manufacturers of packaging to foot the bill for blue box recycling programs.
Five other provinces — British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — already have what are known as extended producer responsibility programs for packaging and printed paper, which can include everything from newspaper and cardboard to plastic food containers and tin cans.
Frank Leblanc, the CEO of Recycle NB is talking to municipalities and regional service commissions across the province to educate them on how a program could work in New Brunswick and just how much money could be saved.
Last week, he made a presentation to Fredericton city council about how an extended producer responsibility recycling program could offset the cost of the city's blue box program.
Who would run it?
"How it works is all of the manufacturers or producers or owners of the packaging that come into the province in New Brunswick would pay for the program," Leblanc said.
"So they would create an industry-funded organization, that organization would then collect fees from all of the people that bring stuff into the province and sell it into the province and then they would use those fees for managing the program," Leblanc said.
Leblanc said a study done a few years ago by industry experts indicated taxpayers in New Brunswick could save $15 million annually if industry producers were required to manage the recycling of the materials they produce.
In order to see those savings, the province would have to pass legislation to force producers to manage the waste they are responsible for creating, similar to regulations for the paint, oil and beverage container recycling programs already in place.
Once an industry-funded organization is created, it would have to negotiate with each municipality and regional service commission to see if it wants to continue running its own program or if the organization should assume responsibility for operating and paying for the recycling of plastic packaging and printed paper.
Leblanc said if a municipality doesn't have the infrastructure to collect and bale blue bin materials, it could simply have the industry-funded organization take care of it.
The challenge in getting legislation like this passed is in the details, Leblanc said.
"You have to make sure that your definitions and that your packaging is all-inclusive for the types of packaging you want to capture."
Consultations also have to take place with industry and small businesses to ensure the program doesn't hurt them or cause them to leave the province.
One way other provinces are handling that issue, Leblanc said, is by setting a minimum amount of sales. A company that doesn't hit the minimum would be put in a group of businesses that don't have to measure and report on the packaging brought into the market but would pay a flat fee.
"The big players like the Sobeys and the Superstores and Walmarts and people like that, they have a system in place already because they're already operating [under] five other programs across the country, so it wouldn't be as big an impact on them."
Leblanc said that so far the province has been supportive of Recycle NB educating municipalities on what a program like this could do for them, but it hasn't made a commitment.
Municipalities and regional service commissions have been interested in learning more about the program, especially the funding mechanisms.
Leblanc said it works differently in every province. For example, British Columbia's blue box program is funded completely by the industry organization, while in Saskatchewan, industry only pays 75 per cent.
Leblanc said the program could manage all consumer packaging not already regulated, including glass, plastic, paper and mixed materials.