The Province is looking to expand the number of recyclable products in B.C., with electric-vehicle batteries, mattresses, single-use fuel canisters, and fire extinguishers among the products that will be eligible for provincewide recycling as part of a five-year plan to advance recycling in British Columbia.
The proposed change in legislation would see other items — including solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, e-cigarettes, and more types of lithium-ion batteries — added to British Columbia’s Recycling Regulation and the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) strategy.
The plan is in its early stages, but Jamie Vieira — manager of environmental services for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District — says that if approved, the plan will require producers and retailers of these products to have a provincially-approved plan on how to collect and recycle them.
“They’ll no longer be a problem for the regional district to recycle or landfill,” he explains. “There will be a province-wide program for this, but how that program gets approved and what it looks like is what we don’t know. The Province has just told mattress retailers in B.C. that the clock is ticking, and that they have a deadline to submit a plan which includes a timeline of when they’ll begin collection. When it’s approved we’ll know what that looks like.”
Currently, in this area, it is the TNRD which accepts and collects items like mattresses at its Eco-Depots and transfer stations. Vieira says that the TNRD then has to turn around and separate them out and try to find somewhere to recycle them, with mixed success.
“It’s up to us to find companies that will recycle them, and we have to weigh up whether or not it’s worth trucking mattresses to Vancouver from Blue River. A province-wide program will say ‘This is how we recycle mattresses.’”
Vieira adds that such a program would likely be funded 100 per cent by mattress producers, and cites the current process when someone purchases a new TV or other electronic product. In addition to the purchase price and taxes, the consumer pays an Environmental Handling Fee, which the industry then uses when it comes to disposing of those products.
“You paid when you bought the thing, so you don’t pay when you dispose of it. People can take their TV to an Eco-Depot, and we’re paid to collect it. The province is continuing their push of making the producers of these products responsible for the recycling, instead of local governments needing to find the solution to the problem.”
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, says that adding products to the program will reduce the waste that’s now being sent to the landfill or illegally dumped in back alleys or green spaces. Under the EPR Five-Year Action Plan, the changes will be phased in to give producers time to set up the necessary systems.
EPR requires producers to take responsibility for the life cycle of their products, including collection and recycling. This shifts the costs and responsibility from local and Indigenous governments and taxpayers to the producers and consumers of products. Since 2004, the Province has regulated, through EPR, residential packaging and paper, beverage containers, numerous electronics, light bulbs, tires, automotive oil, antifreeze, and paint. Starting in February 2022, the province is expanding the beverage container deposit-refund system to include milk and milk-alternative containers, which is expected to recycle up to 40 million more containers annually.
Al Richmond, a director for the Cariboo Regional District, says that the announcement is welcome news.
“Local governments have been advocating for expansion to extended producer responsibility,” he says. “It will reduce the burden on taxpayers and shift most of the costs associated with recycling items like mattresses and single use propane tanks to producers and consumers. It will be especially important to our remote and rural communities that have a limited tax base and higher costs for recycling this kind of waste.”
Vieira says it’s positive news that these new products are being added, but that until the plan is approved the TNRD won’t know the details.
“The devil is always in the details. RecycleBC created their plan and had it approved, but there’s stuff we wish was in there. The TNRD will continue to work with these provincial stewardship organizations to act as depots at our facilities for these products.”