There's too much financial risk involved for the city to sign a contract to provide curbside recycling, council decided yesterday.
During their Monday night meeting, city council voted unanimously in favour of turning down an offer from Multi Material BC (MMBC), the group spearheading the new provincially mandated recycling program.
MMBC represents a variety of producers of packaging and printed paper products, who the province has legislated as responsible for the stewardship of the materials they provide to consumers as of May 2014.
Municipalities already offering curbside garbage collection have the first right of refusal to provide recycling, otherwise the service would be put out to tender for a private contractor.
After reviewing the service contract, staff recommended the city not take part.
"The offer to the city exposes the city to considerable financial risk, in my opinion," said operations superintendent Bill Gaal.
Staff estimates put the cost of operating a bi-weekly curbside recycling program at about $1 million per year. The city would also have to purchase three new trucks and 22,500 new containers, said Gall.
Coun. Cameron Stolz, who heads the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George's committee exploring the recycling recommendations, outlined the financial penalties, "which seem ridiculous and over the top," but are written into the agreement.
"If we want curbside recycling we need to have a cost-effective price for our citizens as opposed to a blank cheque that can be written at any particular time," said Coun. Frank Everitt.
One of the most challenging fines, said Stolz, was the $5,000 penalty per load, if that load has a contamination rate of higher than three per cent when it is delivered to the designated processor.
In contacting other municipalities with established collection services, those contamination rates were between five and seven per cent, according to Stolz.
This could result in almost $2 million per year in extra costs for Prince George, if its 15 biweekly loads were penalized.
"I look at this and I am appalled," said Coun. Brian Skakun, who stressed that turning down the proposal wasn't an indication of council being against recycling. "Everybody around the table has been supportive of recycling over the years it's just how do we do it, can we control it, and at what cost?"
Local governments have until Sept. 16 to make a decision on the offer, with "no consultation or not enough consultation," said Coun. Albert Koehler. "Signing something under pressure is never a good thing. We really could be on the hook for quite a bit."
The agreement is heavily slanted in favour of MMBC, said Coun. Dave Wilbur, calling the contract's language "totally reflective of an arrogant attitude."
"It seems clear to me that we are not alone in this boat. This boat has sailed along and got to this point without any real consultation on the program and it's a take it or leave it proposition," he said.
Stolz's report indicated that the other regional district municipalities would also decline MMBC's offer.
Mayor Shari Green the offer was underwhelming. It provides incentives of up to $32 per household per year based on the household density, an amount per tonne for the collection of glass - collected separately from other materials - and a performance bonus if the amount of material collected reaches certain benchmarks.
After working under the rationale from the regional district that the city would be in a better position after the legislation took effect instead of spending money on a program they would have to change anyway, Green said the situation was "super frustrating."
"It's pretty one sided, there's no question about that," she said. "It's unfortunately but we'll stay tuned and see what the RFP process looks like."