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Newspaper industry, MMBC fall out over recycling fees

Newsprint will still be collected in blue boxes even though there
Newsprint will still be collected in blue boxes even though there's no deal between the newspaper industry in B.C. and Multi-Material BC on how a new recycling system coming next year will be funded.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

Multi-Material BC will accept newsprint even though it has no deal yet with B.C.'s newspaper industry to contribute to the costs of the expanded blue box recycling system that will roll out next year.

Newspapers Canada president and CEO John Hinds said newspaper firms had an agreement with MMBC to make their contribution through in-kind advertising.

But MMBC later came back and pressed for payment mostly in cash – equivalent to draining $6 million a year from the print newspaper industry.

"The newspaper industry simply can't afford the millions of dollars in fees they're looking to set," Hinds said. "Our view is we had an agreement. We negotiated in good faith and we expected them to honour that agreement."

Newspapers Canada represents the three main publishing groups – community newspaper publishers Black Press (owner of this newspaper) and Glacier Media, as well as Postmedia, owner of the Vancouver Sun and The Province.

John HindsHinds said MMBC's reversal came after it became part of a national producer stewardship group, the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance, which is mainly controlled by multinational firms like Unilever, Walmart, and Proctor and Gamble.

Newsprint makes up about half of what goes into blue boxes but Hinds said newspaper firms were given no representation on MMBC or CSSA.

He noted 85 per cent of newsprint is already recycled and it makes up the most valuable recyclable commodity.

"We feel we're the gold star pupils of the blue box," Hinds said, adding unfair fees on newspapers would effectively subsidize the international consumer goods firms that must now recycle more packaging.

Allen Langdon, managing director for Multi-Material BC, said all member stewards are expected to contribute financially to the costs and letting newspapers do so in-kind would have left other firms unfairly subsidizing them.

"I would gather the newspapers are still figuring out how they want to discharge their obligations under the regulation," Langdon said, noting papers have a duty to collect the waste they generate, regardless of whether or not they are ultimately represented by MMBC.

As it stands, print newspapers are not MMBC members.

Hinds had previously said the newspaper industry might look at its own newsprint retrieval system, but said for now it's "great" if MMBC wants to collect it.

He said he remains concerned that the entire MMBC initiative is badly flawed and will put at risk the "really good" recycling programs run by municipalities.

"Decisions are no longer going to be made locally, they're going to be made in Toronto or Arkansas or wherever else about B.C.'s recycling programs," Hinds said.

"I don't think this works for the environment and I don't think this works for communities."

RELATED STORY: B.C. cities vote on joining MMBC recycling system

 

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