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U.S. recyclables put South Surrey depot in bind

Semiahmoo Bottle Depot
Semiahmoo Bottle Depot's Heimin Lee is frustrated by the Multi-Material BC recycling program, which does not accept U.S. beverage containers.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

A South Surrey businessman says confusion over Multi Material BC’s recycling rules is leaving him with mounds of glass and plastic that will end up in the garbage.

And Heimin Lee said he thinks it just might be the factor that pushes Semiahmoo Bottle Depot and others to opt out of the provincial government’s MMBC program.

“I’m really prepared for MMBC,” Lee told Peace Arch News. “But it’s not worth it.

“Lots of depot owners who (are) doing PPP (packaging and printed paper) may be going to drop out of MMBC.”

Lee said he only learned a few weeks ago – around the same time the new system launched – that plastic and glass beverage containers purchased south of the border will not be accepted.

In the months before the roll out, he says he was assured many times during conference calls that they would be included.

“I ask the same question every time we have a meeting… roughly 10 times,” Lee said, referring to the containers’ acceptability.

“They say yes, yes, yes,” Lee said.

He prepared his business, at 15515 24 Ave., by expanding the number of bays, adding new signage and passing that same message to his customers. They responded in kind, and now, 70-80 per cent of the beverage containers brought to the depot are from the U.S.

“Everybody was so happy… because we take almost everything,” he said.

“Now, I don’t know what to tell the customer. Because I don’t want to make my customers feel bad, I keep taking it. It’s so frustrating.

“They suddenly changed the word. So where do U.S. container go? Garbage.”

But MMBC managing director Allen Langdon said beverage containers in general are not part of the MMBC program, noting the problem with U.S. containers is not a new one.

It is “the one thing we’ve expressed concern about,” Langdon told PAN last week.

“Those are unstewarded containers and fees have not been paid on these containers.

“And so we’re in very much the same position. There’s material that’s unstewarded. Our operators couldn’t accept it. No one’s paying us to recycle this material.”

Collectors will do “ongoing sampling and auditing” to ensure pickups aren’t contaminated, he added.

Langdon said the possibility of depot operators opting out of MMBC is “probably an issue the closer you are to the border.”

“I think for most depots it won’t be an issue. I think most depots are finding that the fit with MMBC is good, and it’s an additional revenue stream. It’s another step towards that kind of one-stop-drop.”

MMBC launched May 19 to meet the provincial mandate that firms that distribute packaging waste pay the costs of recycling it, but it has faced a backlash over high fees and lack of accountability from some companies.

Lee – who,  last month, was bombarded by people dumping their garbage due to job action by City of White Rock employees – maintains the U.S. issue needs to be addressed.

 

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