New provincial recycling program killed Central Saanich firm, says ex-GM

A small recycling business in Central Saanich is one of the first casualties in the transition to a new recycling program in the province, according to its former general manager.

Syntal Products had depended on Gulf Islands recycling depots for the household plastics it transformed into plastic lumber for structures such as park benches and patio furniture. But under the new program, administered by stewardship group Multi Material B.C., those depots must deliver residential recyclables to a different organization.

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“Once I knew that source was inaccessible — that was 60 per cent of our total source — that was it. I couldn’t see how to continue,” Brian Burchill said.

The Gulf Island recycling depots are now required to deliver household plastics to Green by Nature, a new organization contracted to manage MMBC’s post-collection system.

Burchill looked, but couldn’t find alternative sources, so he gave the final staff termination notice Aug. 15. Syntal employed four to six people and had been in business since 1996.

The new recycling program came as part of a Ministry of Environment policy change intended to shift financial responsibility for recycling packaging and printed paper to the industries that produce those materials. MMBC was formed to manage the program.

But the program has come under criticism as a “hidden tax” that will be passed down to consumers from businesses. Some businesses, including members of the newspaper industry, have also said the recycling fees could put them out of business.

MMBC managing director Allen Langdon said that Green by Nature isn’t prohibited from signing a deal with Syntal.

“There are no restrictions in our agreement with Green by Nature that would have prevented them from selling material to Syntal Products, subject to the two parties reaching an agreement on price,” Langdon said.

The problem, from Langdon’s perspective, is that Syntal formerly collected plastic from the Gulf Islands for free, which is not an agreeable term. He said there are still 70 collectors in the province that have not joined MMBC, which continue to market their plastics to businesses similar to Syntal.

Burchill said it’s not that easy. The plastics he received from the Gulf Islands were uncontaminated by other materials such as glass and metal, which he said is hard to find. Syntal did not have the technology to separate clean plastics from other materials.

NDP small business critic Lana Popham said Syntal won’t be the only small business affected by the shift. “It’s not isolated,” Popham said. “As MMBC becomes more entrenched, I’m getting more and more emails about the fallout for small businesses.”

She considered the shift unfair to Syntal.

“To basically pull the carpet out from another business — I don’t think it’s fair business practice.”

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