Saanich South MLA Lana Popham stands with Syntal Products owner Brian Burchill at his Keating area recycling plant. Burchill was forced to close his business earlier this month due to restrictions brought on from the Multi-Material B.C. recycling stewardship program.

Regional recycling plant shut out by B.C. program

Uncertain future for many recyclers under Multi-Material B.C.

Syntal Products has closed its doors, only months after the introduction of a controversial provincewide recycling stewardship program.

The 16-year-old business, located on Keating X Road in Central Saanich, accepted thousands of tons of used residential plastic from around the Capital Region and used an environmentally friendly process to convert the scrap plastics into all-plastic lumber.

“Early in July, we began informing people we would be closing and told them to stop bringing their plastics to us,” said owner Brian Burchill.

“As of Aug. 15, the last of the employees were laid off and we closed our doors for good.”

The closure, Burchill said, was due to the fact that the province’s new Multi-Material B.C. program started diverting about 60 per cent of the plastics coming into Syntal to other recycling companies.

MMBC is a residential recycling program that came into effect this spring through regulatory changes at the Ministry of Environment.

Under its stewardship plan, MMBC is expected to ensure approximately 75 per cent of residential recyclables in B.C. are recycled within three years.

The cost of this service has been shifted from municipalities onto business, although critics like the Canadian Federation of Business argue the change amounts to an indirect tax on business, which is passed on to consumers to cover those costs.

“Because about 60 per cent of the material I normally would have brought in was gone, there was no way I could find enough of the right types of plastics to make up the difference,” Burchill said. “The company was no longer viable and I sold our assets to a recycling operation in Winnipeg.”

Burchill was initially optimistic about the MMBC program.

“A lot of it sounded like it was based on extended producer responsibility and I thought, ‘Great, if the manufacturer has to step up and deal with the end of life of these products, they’ll build them out of better plastics.’ But as time went on, I started getting different impressions of what was coming.”

After a lot of research and inquiry, Burchill discovered his company was categorized as a processor of scrap plastics, and MMBC catered to collectors.

“My hands were tied,” he said.

Burchill, who met with Saanich South MLA Lana Popham last month to discuss the closure of his business, calls the MMBC program a legislated monopoly.

Popham agreed. “The B.C. Liberals are killing small businesses in the recycling sector by gifting a monopoly over residential recycling to a handful of mega-corporations,” she said.

– Devon McKenzie

editor@goldstreamgazette.com