Only five municipalities have opted in to the province’s new producer-led curbside recycling program in the western half of New Brunswick, according to the non-profit engaged to run it.

But Circular Materials says the model will still work, even if most cities and towns opt not to participate.

Currently, recycling programs are managed at the municipal level and by regional service commissions. In 2021, New Brunswick made paper and packaging the responsibility of the manufacturer, and Circular Materials, a non-profit “producer responsibility organization,” was picked by brand holders to handle it on their behalf, according to a stewardship plan approved by Recycle NB this spring.

Jeff MacCallum, Circular Materials’ managing director for Atlantic Canada, said plans are “going well, and we’re on track” to launch the first phase in November for six regional service commissions in the western side of the province, with the rest of the province’s RSCs to follow in May.

The firm is now looking for operators in each community to collect the recycling, with municipalities and First Nations communities that already provide recycling getting the right of first refusal.

As of this week, five municipalities have agreed to participate and 22 municipalities have declined, MacCallum said. With 41 total municipalities in the western RSCs, that leaves 14 who have yet to decide.

MacCallum said they have been “very engaged” with municipalities as it looks to sign them up to help operate the service, which would involve being paid to collect curbside recycling and manage communication and education around the program.

He said that the goal is to allow municipalities to continue doing what they’re doing if they want to, but if they pass on it, Circular Materials can contract out to private companies. Circular Materials would take on communication and education responsibilities in that case.

“The model is set up to allow for the option” to participate or not, MacCallum said, saying each municipality has its own circumstances and that the program would be able to continue as planned either way.

The City of Saint John opted out in July. At the Saint Andrews council meeting Aug. 8, councillors opted out by consensus, with Councillor Lee Heenan saying there was no incentive to opt in.

“What we’re seeing across the province … there are a number of concerns around that,” Saint Andrews Mayor Brad Henderson said in an interview with Brunswick News. “You’re seeing a lot of municipalities saying, ‘We didn’t ask for this.'”

One issue brought up was the quick run-up to launch the program, as well as possible penalties for deliveries that have contamination over a certain percentage.

MacCallum said there would be a series of audits and recommendations that could last for more than 18 months before any financial penalties would come into effect.

MacCallum said if a city has not opted in, it will continue to run its curbside recycling until next May, when Circular Materials takes over the program. At that point, MacCallum said they will try to find another operator, including whichever contractors a municipality may have been working with already.

Once Circular Materials’ plan is up and running, MacCallum said they will work with operators to “ramp up quickly” in terms of expanding which products are accepted, saying the new program “really expands what’s able to be recycled.”

A press release says the plan includes items such as glass jars, plastic wrap, Styrofoam and wrapping paper. MacCallum also said the program will mean a standardized set of what can and can’t be recycled throughout the province.

He said the organization’s goal is to create a “circular economy” where increased recycling lessens the demand for resources for packaging.

“The more materials we’re able to collect and then have recycled and feed back into production going forward reduces the demand for virgin natural resources,” MacCallum said. He said they’d consider processing locally or somewhere else depending on a “variety of factors.”

Residents that already get curbside service are expected to get the same level of service under the new stewardship plan, and for residents that don’t have it, including those in apartment buildings, the plan requires Circular Materials to expand service to all residents with household garbage collection by May 2025.

According to the plan, Circular Materials may contract with municipalities already offering recycling containers in public spaces and will assume responsibility for public space containers by May 2026.

By Andrew Bates, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 28, 2023 at 07:51

This item reprinted with permission from   Telegraph-Journal   Saint John, New Brunswick
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