This could all change by next year.
A new program, called the Multi-Material Recycling Program (MMRP), aims to fund up to 75 per cent of Saskatchewan’s municipal recycling. It will markedly reduce the cost of recycling for communities, whether they use curbside pickup or a central drop off.
As a member of the steering committee over 10 years ago, Rick Pederson saw the MMRP rise, die off and finally come back to life about six years ago. This week the government announced the program could be as few as six months away.
“It does look more promising now even though they promised it last year and it didn't come,” he said.
The specifics are still being worked out, but the program will be paid for by the industries included under new provincial regulations.
The MMRP will be different from SARCAN’s deposit return system, which is government-funded. For certain items environmental fees are paid at purchase and the money given back when items are returned to SARCAN. For example, every pop can a person brings in is worth 10 cents.
Currently the cost of operating a recycling program within a community is generally covered by taxes for all households. The cost of a more than $300 thousand expansion to Outlook's recycling facility two years ago was entirely funded by taxpayers, explained Pederson, the town's superintendent of municipal operations.
“We've always been sort of the leader here in Saskatchewan as far a recycling goes,” he said of the program, which has been running for 17 years.
But once the MMRP is in place that will change. Households will only be on the hook for a quarter of the cost, while the remaining three quarters will be covered by individual consumers. Companies will place the extra price of an item on the consumer, who will not receive any money back.
Pederson said he would prefer the program to cover 100 per cent of municipal recycling.
“I'm a real big believer in user pay; the people out there creating (the waste). If somebody wants to buy their product then they're paying for it to be recycled. That's the way it should work.”
Hundreds of communities in Saskatchewan already have recycling programs. However, cost has been prohibitive in communities like Craik, where only certain materials are now recycled.
Eade predicts that once the MMRP funds are available recycling services in Craik will expand.
Even if a community decides not to change an existing recycling program, it will still receive money through the MMRP.
“It’s up to the municipalities on how they spend the money that they get,” said the Ministry of the Environment’s Shelly Nicole-Phillips.
“If they decide to use that money that they get to invest in some other infrastructure that they have in their community then that’s kind of up to them.”
The town of Outlook will invest the money elsewhere. With the new expansion to the town's depot, there is little more it can do to increase recycling, said Pederson.
“We can take that money and maybe pave another street,or build another subdivision or give some more money to community service groups.”
This doesn't mean the MMRP funds will be taken for granted, he said. The community sells its recyclables to industry buyers, but the value of paper, fibre, plastic, and tin within those markets fluctuate from year to year. This makes capital planning very difficult and puts stress on the municipal budget, explained Pederson. The MMRP funding will provide stability to Outlook and other communities.
“We'll be able to know what a good portion of our revenue is going to be based on the numbers that they give us,” he said.
This will allow them to lower the taxpayer burden, since selling the scrap produced through recycling does not cover the costs of the program.
Regulations for industry have already been established, and industry stewards will spend the next six months ironing out how to roll out their funding.