What is allowed to go in curbside recycling bins and what isn't is changing under the Multi-Material BC system that launches May 19.

What is allowed to go in curbside recycling bins and what isn't is changing under the Multi-Material BC system that launches May 19.

B.C.’s bluebox recycling shift may bring some confusion

Multi Material BC system takes effect next week, but some recyclables must go to depots, not curbside bins

B.C.’s new industry-funded recycling system debuts May 19 and the main change for residents is the ability to put many more types of containers and other packaging in the bluebox.

Milk cartons, coffee cups, aerosol containers, aluminum foil packaging and plant pots are just a few of the new items accepted curbside under the Multi-Material BC system.

But figuring out what can go in will be tricky.

Just about all plastic jugs, bottles, jars and clear clamshells can go in the blue box.

But plastic foam trays from the grocery store meat counter have to be taken to a depot, as does the plastic shrink wrap on top of it, grocery store plastic bags and various other film plastics and styrofoam.

And there’s a long list of other items that either aren’t accepted or can only go to depots. (A full list is at recyclinginbc.ca.)

Also required to go to a depot is any glass to prevent bottles and jars from breaking and contaminating other recyclables.

Unless, that is, if you live in cities like Richmond, Coquitlam and Langley City, which have opted for curbside pickup of segregated glass.

B.C. Bottle Depot Association executive director Corinne Atwood predicts plenty of confusion surrounding the rules on what can go in blue boxes.

“People aren’t going to pack their glass jars to depots,” she said. “They’re going to pitch them in the garbage bag.”

Depots won’t necessarily accept everything that MMBC directs their way either – she said many have decided there’s not enough money in it for them.

“Some of our members have already put up signs in their depots saying we don’t accept these materials.”

MMBC managing director Allen Langdon said the decision to accept mainly soft plastics at depots only and refuse some types – such as crinkly cellophane from flower bouquets – is because there are better local markets for some recyclables than others.

“If we get the crinkly material in often it will end up offshore instead of being recycled locally,” he said.

Langdon predicts consumers will like the new system.

“We’re expecting the residents to be enthusiastic in putting lots of additional materials in the blue box,” he said.

One of the advantages, he said, is that the list of what’s accepted in blue bins, what isn’t and what has to go to depots will now be consistent across B.C.

“We have a common list of materials accepted so that you’re not having to re-educate yourself – the same list of materials is accepted whether you’re in Surrey, Vancouver or Langley.”

But it’s far from a universal system, with some Lower Mainland cities – such as Delta and Abbotsford – opting out, at least for now.

And MMBC has yet to strike deals covering some other areas of the province as well, although curbside or depot service will also roll into new communities like Terrace and Smithers that have never had it before.

Most Lower Mainland cities have opted to accept payments from MMBC in return for continuing to act as recyclable collectors under the new system.

Coquitlam is an exception that has allowed MMBC to hire its own contractors to replace the city’s service.

“At launch we’ll be covering 75 per cent of the province,” Langdon said, adding MMBC will see what its budget allows in future years to plug “strategic gaps” in the collection system.

“This is going to be evolution,” he said. “I don’t see where we are today to be necessarily permanent.”

The provincially mandated system is intended to make companies that generate waste responsible for recovering it, allowing municipalities to potentially reduce their property taxes.

But critics like Atwood contend MMBC’s member companies will raise their prices to consumers to cover their costs and residents whose cities have opted out of the system will end up paying twice.

“When you break down the fees they’re often less than a cent per unit,” Langdon responded. “I don’t know that you can necessarily say there are going to be higher consumer prices.”

Some big question marks remain – including whether the newspaper industry, which refuses to pay MMBC fees, will set up its own stewardship system and redirect newsprint that generates much of the revenue from recyclables that MMBC depends on.

There are also other business sectors continuing to fight the MMBC model, demanding more accountability and other reforms, in some cases threatening legal action.

“There’s just so many confusing and complex aspects to this program from the perspective of business,” said Mike Klassen, B.C. director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. “That’s why we asked for a time out. But the government is pressing ahead.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Contributed photo)
PHOTOS: South Surrey Unitarians take call for racial justice to street

‘When we see it in our lives, we can either say something about it or be complicit in it’

Surrey Eagles forward Michael Abgrall had two goals and two assists in a pair of weekend victories. (Damon James photo)
Surrey Eagles’ offence soars in pair of lopsided victories

BC Hockey League squad scores 22 goals in two wins over Powell River, Coquitlam

A youngster goes hunting for trash on a Surrey sidewalk. (Submitted photo: City of Surrey)
Anniedale school in 1899 with teacher Jessie Inglis, left, and students Hugh Gillis, Harry Latta, Fred Williams, Horatio Hodder, Fraser Latta, Margaret Hodder, Robert Hodder, Annie Gillis and Mary Hodder. (Photo courtesy Surrey Archives)
SURREY NOW & THEN: Old Anniedale schoolhouse closed twice due to pandemic, moved twice

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites and events

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Large gatherings of people at Kitsilano Beach on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Walter Wells/Twitter)
Vancouver police to reassess enforcement of COVID rules at outdoor parties: mayor

No tickets were given out for a large outdoor party at Kitsilano Beach

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

Most Read