“If we don’t have the Blue Box program, which is the anchor of our business, then we wouldn’t have enough volume to operate,” says Caroline Arcand.
Arcand is the executive director of Groupe Convex, a non-profit organization in Hawkesbury that operates a handful of social enterprises including Recycle-Action since 2008.
The provincial government is planning to amend the Blue Box program to “transition the program from its current shared cost model to full producer responsibility…” Right now, municipalities are responsible for recycling, usually contracting out services. Those costs are covered about 50 per cent by taxes and the rest is reimbursed by the province. The changes would see municipalities no longer being responsible for recycling. While not set in stone, Arcand says the province will likely be creating a stewardship made up of large-scale producers. That stewardship would then contract out services and would be paid for by those big players through a tariff. This is how electronic waste is currently dealt with in the province.
So how does all that affect Recycle-Action?
Put simply, Arcand is concerned that small services like Recycle-Action may be forgotten as recycling responsibilities move upwards to the province.
“That stewardship will be fixing the tariff, obviously, based on what’s happening in big cities,” Arcand told the United Counties of Prescott and Russell council.
She doesn’t want a price tag being the sole deciding factor in who will be getting recycling contracts from the stewardship.
Arcand recently sent a letter to Chris Ballard, the province’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change outlining other factors she thinks should be taken into account.
More than just price
The first is essentially not to forget about the province’s rural communities.
In line with that, the second item is to look at a company’s broader environmental impact and not necessarily just its Blue Box capabilities.
In Recycle-Action’s case, it also collects electronic waste, styrofoam, and recycles agricultural plastics—all things that aren’t covered by the Blue Box program. With the extra service come extra fees, but also a more beneficial environmental impact. Otherwise, many of these products would end up in local dumps. These other services also don’t have enough volume to keep Recycle-Action viable.
Finally, Arcand is asking the minister also consider a business’s social impact.
Recycle-Action has nearly 40 employees, 24 of them are considered “at risk” (i.e. who would have difficulty finding work elsewhere). These include former workers at plants like Amoco and PPG, as well as people living with disabilities.
The government is still in consultation about the amended program with the new regulations likely to be in place early next year. In that time, Arcand will be joining the UCPR’s delegation with Minister Ballard at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in January to address these issues.
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