Part III. Learnings from British Columbia: Advice for Transition

In this installment of CIF’s blog mini-series, we are continuing to share insight and advice from British Columbia’s Product Stewardship Council (BCPSC) based on their experience with transition. This week we are focusing on the decision-making process regarding whether or not to remain engaged as a contractor to a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) once transition occurs. Here are this week’s learnings…

Should you stay or should you go?

In May 2013, the Recycle BC stewardship plan was approved by BC’s Ministry of Environment. Within the plan it was made clear that Recycle BC would allow first right of refusal to Local Governments (LG) to provide collection services. In June 2013, Recycle BC released sample contract documents which included detailed scopes of work for curbside, multi-family and depot collection services. Letters of offer were sent to municipalities with a deadline for acceptance of the offer by September 2013. The letters clearly stated that the offers were not negotiable and were unconditional. Over the ensuing summer, there was much discussion among solid waste managers across the Province as the offer was assessed. The following thinking around whether or not to engage as a collection service provider to the PRO resulted.

Rationale for accepting the offer and staying in

Most LGs that accepted one or more collection incentives offered by Recycle BC cited the following reasoning:

  • The LG could maintain control over the type of collection service (i.e., single vs multi-stream), and the type of container (i.e., box or cart).
  • Communities with co-collection systems (i.e., PPP plus one or more other waste streams) could retain operational efficiency (full utilization of the fleet vehicles) if they continue PPP collection.

Rationale for rejecting the offer and switching to direct service

Those who transitioned to direct service from the PRO gave the following reasoning:

  • Concern that the collection incentive in the Letter of Offer may not cover the LGs full cost of collection service delivery.
  • Concern the LG may not be able to achieve the contamination threshold.
  • Opportunity to allocate the full Blue Box budget into other programs like organics collection and illegal dumping education.
  • Opportunity to eliminate capital expenditures such as fleet replacement and reduce labour costs (e.g. drivers and administrative staff).
Excerpt from 2017 City of Vancouver presentation (Click for full presentation).

The City of Vancouver first accepted all three of the Recycle BC incentives to collect from its single family, and multi-family units, and to operate a depot, but later transitioned to direct service from Recycle BC in 2016 for the single and multi-family collection services. They identified four key drivers for divesting: contract renewals, fleet replacement, funding shortfall and investment opportunities.

In a January 2017 presentation, City of Vancouver staff explained these variables and how Council’s concerns were addressed.

For municipalities that elect to transition to direct service from a PRO, planning is needed to ensure a smooth transition from the municipal collection system to the PRO collection services with minimal or no impact on the recycling services to residents. The presentation from the City of Vancouver details their timing and approach, while also explaining ‘how-to’s’ for redirecting resident calls and ensuring keys and access codes to multi-family properties are exchanged.

In or out… how do IC&I materials fit?

For municipalities that currently provide collection services to small quantity Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) customers on residential curbside routes or through depot services, consideration must be given to how these will be managed if the municipality remains engaged or divests. Communications between those municipalities and their IC&I stops should begin early to make them aware of potential impacts to service. If a municipality remains engaged at the depot level and continues to offer service to IC&I customers, consideration should be given to operational impacts. For example, if the PRO does not allow the co-mingling of IC&I and residential materials, depot operators may need to start charging IC&I generators for receiving their PPP to address the operating cost, and the depot operator may also need to find a MRF that will take the IC&I materials (if the PRO will not take it at their facility). Depot operators may also need to keep IC&I and residential PPP separated as the collection incentive paid by the PRO may only apply to residential PPP. This separation of residential and IC&I PPP will have implications for staff time and increased physical space on site.

More to come…

CIF staff are working with the BCPSC to complete a report detailing all of the shared learnings. The report will address the questions raised by our readers. Watch for it at the end of the summer. Additional questions will be accepted until Friday, August 14. If there’s anything specific about BC’s PPP program you’d liked to see shared in the report, reach out to Jessica Landry