Oil recycling challenges can't be solved by local government

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
July 15th, 2010

People are changing the way they think about garbage. When it comes to recycling and reusing, Canadians are shifting their perspective. As Environmental Services Director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) says, there is no magic garbage can for all our waste anymore. So it’s no surprise that as thinking shifts that the way the system operates comes into question. Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor brought the problem of used oil recycling to council after hearing from a local businessman who is tired of dealing with the headache.   “What we have here with the stewardship and recycled oil…. is that government has designated a number of places that will take oil, store it and periodically have it picked up. The problem is that it’s costing the garage, let’s say, way more to go through the hassle of this than it is worth their while,” said Taylor at the meeting on June 28.   Taylor proposed that city council work with the RDKB to explore the option of providing the collection facility at the local landfills. A proposal that Stanley said could result in users paying twice for the disposal of their products – first at the time of purchase with the eco-fee, and then again by paying taxes to cover the increased costs of landfill operations.   “The issue is that all of these industry stewardship programs are funded by industry and by their customers. There’s no tax money that goes into this, no provincial tax money, no local tax money. It’s all funded by what we pay as consumers when we buy these products,” said Stanley. “It’s really a tough one though. We can make phone calls to say we don’t think there are enough outlets in Grand Forks, but ultimately we’ve got no authority, we can’t tell the stewardship agencies what to do.”   Used oil is regulated by the province of B.C. under their product stewardship plan. The plan is implemented and monitored by the B.C. Used Oil Management Association and funded by the eco-fees paid by users when they buy their product. This program pays a number of return collection facilities across the province to collect and store used oil and oil products until they can be collected to be processed into other products. The facility is paid a fee dependent on the type of product they collect. The BCUOMA is responsible for collecting used oil, used oil filters, and containers.   Taylor said that the local collection facilities are paid very little for their efforts. Prices listed by the BCUOMA range from .13 cents per litre for used oil to $1.50 per kilogram for oil containers. Although one of the local facilities expressed concerns about the program to Taylor, Ben Haveman of Tomcat Automotive, another of the local collection facilities, said that for him the program is fine. Haveman’s only complaint is that the pick up of the oil drums is infrequent.   “We have to store it all until it gets taken away,” said Haveman. “That would be our only problem with it because we have to store it in drums and store them on the premises somewhere. We’re not having a problem with the compensation.”   Stanley said that the BCUOMA could contract with the local government instead of private businesses to provide collections, but that he wants to see the manufacturers of the products continue to be responsible for their waste.   “Back in the early 90’s an industry program (no government involvement) was developed that required anyone who sold oil to take oil back. This was a pretty good program; it was stable, consistent and easy to understand and the burden on the retailers was not too onerous. The more recent iteration of the used oil program uses selected retailers as depots. One of the problems is that the businesses incur some expense but are either not compensated or poorly compensated. This can result in retailers dropping out of the program and a confusing landscape for the consumer,” said Stanley.   “So, what do we do? Do we, in frustration, establish a public facility to do the work that industry is legally compelled to do? If so, we accept the consequences that our residents will pay twice for the same program; once to industry in the form of visible eco-fees or fees included in the price of the product and then to government in the form of taxes or user fees to operate the facility.”   Stanley said that he is happy to work with the city and take their concerns to the BCUUOMA to encourage improvements to their program in the region but resists the idea of setting up facilities at the landfill. The province’s policy of producer responsibility is widely accepted across the world as having some of the best chance of improving the waste products situation.   “After the second world war we started creating this disposable society. Ten or fifteen years ago we realized that we had turned a corner and this sort of extended producer responsibility is one that has the most potential to start making less garbage because it’s the producers that make this stuff and distribute it and sell it. The local government’s running around with a broom and a dustpan picking up after everybody. We don’t have any influence over anything,” explained Stanley.   Stanley said that the RDKB’s policy position on stewardship materials, expressed in the Regional Solid Waste Management Plan, is that public money should not be spent on managing provincially regulated stewardship material. What those materials are is also interesting, said Stanley, the list is long, and getting longer by the year.   Check out http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/recycling/   Boundary used oil collection locations:   Grand Forks: Lorne’s Pit Stop, Tomcat Automotive Christina Lake: Christina Lake Towing, Christina Lake Mechanical Greenwood: Greenwood Auto CentreBeaverdell: Transfer station 

Categories: Issues