Guest blog post by Corrine Atwood, Executive Director, BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association
Guest blog post by Corrine Atwood, Executive Director, BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association
The BCBRDA ( BC Bottle and Recycling Depot Association) has for over a decade continued to campaign for the creation of an “Independent Governing Agency / Recycling Management Board. This has not been a quick or easy campaign and we have enlisted the support of a significant number stakeholders and media along the way.
In the past ten years BC has had 3 Ministers of Environment and with the exception of a remaining few, a large turnover of MoE and other governmental staff. Fractured depot representation complicates matters. Government is reluctant to act on the wishes of fractured industry groups.
There has also been push back from EPR stewards who do not want an“Independent Governing Agency”. The fear is that the Alberta utility model could be brought into BC and change the nature and power of some current organizations. An “Independent Governing Agency” would level the playing field for all stakeholders.
The Ministry of Environment recently sent out a request for stakeholder responses for “Proposed Amendments to the BC Recycling Regulations. The BCBRDA responded with a lengthy document that not only outlines our concerns with some of the proposed changes that were requested by EPR stewards but asks the question of why ours and other stakeholder requests for changes to the BC Recycling Regulations over the years were not included as part of the proposed amendments.
In the past, the BCBRDA has requested (and provided solid support from elected officials and consumers) increases to deposit levels and the inclusion of milk containers into the deposit system, the later only requires that the government recognize milk as a beverage under the BC Recycling Regulations. That fact that BC does not recognize milk as a beverage but that milk is listed in the Canadian Food guide as a beverage continues to mystify the masses.
Depots and other service providers also need effective dispute resolutions that are accessible for everyone. The current requirement in the BC Recycling Regulations covering dispute resolutions in contracts is somewhat vague resulting in expensive and lengthy processes for those wanting to access dispute resolutions.
Prior senior governments have had mixed responses to our requests. Politicians have stated that “any increase to the deposit levels and increases of container types into the deposit system would starve families and low income individuals who would have to pay more deposits out.”
The BCBRDA has always responded to those statements that “deposits offer an opportunity for all consumers to get their money back if they do the right thing and bring the containers back for recycling and that deposits provide incentive for people to collect and return deposit bearing containers thereby reducing litter” and “that nonrefundable container recycling fees and eco/enviro fees hidden or otherwise that are collected through EPR programs are taking significant amounts of money out of family and other consumer pockets.”
The BCBRDA maintains that there is a serious issue of lack of governance over the access and use of consumer and public monies when EPR stewards using the current EPR framework can develop their own funding model that includes unlimited access to consumer dollars to create large multimillion dollar reserve funds without any public consultation.
Typically businesses should have reserve funds but it’s the business operator who sets these funds aside out of their own money. If EPR was truly EPR the manufacturer should provide the reserve fund because in the event of business failure or closure those funds would not be returned to consumers. The EPR business models should also include fair and equitable compensation for work performed by their contracted service providers like depots, transporters and processors, but the majority of EPR stewards have not offered any opportunity for negotiation for increases in compensation in a business market that has seen record increases to business expenses over the past ten years. Commercial arbitration is time consuming and expensive.
Our provincial and federal governments are currently being criticized for their government and party financial polices and that has made some high level government officials take a greater interest in our concerns.
Through our efforts the government is now taking a closer look at the management of these funds. It appears we have strengthened our case for an independent governing agency or at minimum more government intervention to protect consumer dollars. This has lead to some backlash over the past few months from those who would prefer to see our efforts fail for a variety of reasons.
The BCBRDA has been made aware that there are efforts going on to further divide and conquer depot alliances in an effort to weaken the strength of our membership and influence. Depots now more than ever need to stick together in their representation.
The BRBRDA asks all depot operators to meet with their local MLA and ask for their support for an Independent Governing Agency/ Recycling Management Board, and to support amendments the BC Recycling Regulation to recognize milk as a beverage and to make further amendments to the BC Recycling Regulations by creating language that would enable affordable access to dispute resolutions. Take this newsletter with you to give to your local MLA. Ask for a written letter of support and to CC a copy the support letter the BCBRDA.
If you are a current BCBRDA member we thank you for your continued support of your industry and the BCBRDA will continue to represent your best interests. If you are not a member we invite you to join the BCBRDA and be part of a movement to secure much needed change to the BC Recycling Regulations.
The BCBRDA is an established association founded by depots 19 years ago and is owned by depots who are working together for a common goal. The BCBRDA gives depots an umbrella for a collective voice. BCBRDA membership is open to all. To BCBRDA’s credit.
The BCBRDA is a registered non-profit association and has been in existence for 19 years, founded and owned by independent bottle depot operators. Any depot can join and participate fully.
The BCBRDA is accountable to our members and operates as prescribed under provincial government regulations including annual third party financial and operational audits.
The BCBRDA is the face of depots and promotes depot and recycling industry issues to provincial, federal and international governments and other agencies.
The BCBRDA is governed by an experienced Board of Directors that are depot operators and an experienced Executive Director, working for depots 365 days a year, there for depots all the time. All members are encouraged to participate in their association.
Every 5 years depots face contract renewal process with Encorp that center around handing fees and historically these renewal processes have included contract changes. The complications of negotiating with a monopoly can result in anxiety and frustration for depot operators.
To add to this frustration Encorp has stated clearly that they will not negotiate with groups. This exclusion of “negotiating groups” from handling fee renewal processes is something that depots agreed to on the last contract. Even though the BCBRDA has been appointed as legal agent for members that have granted us that privilege Encorp has chosen not to acknowledge rights of agency. Depots would have to individually enforce recognition of their appointed agent through legal action which would be costly.
A steering committee has been struck by Encorp to work with the consultants. The steering committee consists of 8 depot operators. Apparently only 8 operators volunteered to sit on the committee so Encorp has invited all to stay. To our knowledge the Steering Committee has not had their role in the process clearly defined.
Up until now Encorp has kept the handling fee schedule outside of the depot license agreements which is one of the reasons it was impossible to arbitrate the handling fees in the last two contract negotiations.
A BCBRDA and Encorp mediation in 2007 resulted in a signed agreement and set methodology for a Handling Fee Protocol for future handling fee negotiations and depots gave up substantial clauses such as “Best Efforts” in their DLAs for this Handling Fee Protocol. To date, Encorp has ignored their commitments under this agreement and refused to use the agreed methodology or be part of the agreed committee that is to be comprised of Encorp, BCBDRA and other depots to determine new handling fees.
Our BCBRDA Chair asked for the copies of the signed agreement and supporting documents to be distributed at the last Encorp Handling Fee Panel and his request was refused. BCBRDA members can ask for a copy of the Handling Fee Protocol. BCBRDA Members should also have a copy of the Handling Fee Protocol included with their 2007 DLA and CSA.
It was discussed on the Handling Fee Webinar that there are concerns that the Encorp may want any new handling fee schedule included in the new contract to avoid their responsibilities under the still active Handling Fee Protocol agreement.
Encorp is currently asking depots to submit their financial information to their third party for review in an effort to determine the costs of handling Encorp products. The BCBRDA is concerned about lack of methodology and lack of confidentiality of depot information. Confidentiality was breached last time and apparently has been again already this time as Encorp staff has been contacting depots to encourage them to give their information. Every depot is very different in their operations. Some are stand alone depots, some depots are part of a larger business, some only handle select materials, some enjoy regional subsidies, some get presence grants etc. The right mix of depot information is crucial to the handing fee process.
In Alberta a few years ago some errors occurred even with a unified chart of accounts. Some depots failed to list expenses properly and that resulted in a 6% roll back of handling fees for Alberta depots. Information is only useful if all the depots who submit it use the same chart of accounts reporting their information the same way. So far to our knowledge no one has been offered a template chart of accounts to use before they submit their information. Depots have only been asked to supply raw information for the consultants to chart. Encorp also wants access to depots other business activities as they will consider the compensation to depots paid by other stewardship programs when determining their handling fee offer.
The BCBRDA has over the years spent tens of thousands of dollars to work with industry consultants on handling fee methodology only to have Encorp refuse to consider the information and methodology once they agreed to it. The BCBRDA urges caution when sharing your financial information as once it leaves your control you will have no control over its use.
The BCBRDA will host a series of webinars over upcoming months to provide a forum for depots to discuss the Encorp handling fee process and the process of contract negotiations / renewals with other stewards. Up to 5 webinars will be offered over the next 5 months.
Each webinar will bring forward information from previous webinars combined with new information that has been gathered form surveys between webinars. The webinars will be 90 minutes in length the first 45 minutes to discuss the Encorp process the second 45 minutes will be to discuss initiating a contract renewal process with other stewards.
A number of surveys will also be sent to depots over the upcoming months to gather addition information regarding depot operations and concerns. This information will be shared verbally and summary analysis for discussion with depots attending the webinars. The depot identity will not be revealed.
The next Handling Fee Webinar will be on Monday May 30th 11 am.
This webinar is open all depots but you must register by email before Thursday May 19th to receive your webinar link.