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History

 

Founded in 1992, the Manitoba Association of Regional Recyclers (MARR) has served as the provincial forum and voice of the recycling industry. It exists as an organization of diverse recycling collectors and processors committed to promoting cost-efficient and effective recycling in Manitoba. MARR membership is representative of a wide cross-section of Manitoba municipalities, villages, towns and cities, as well as not-for-profit and small for-profit recycling organizations. MARR provides its members with an ever-increasing provincial network for timely information sharing on industry trends and best practices, as well as a means for appropriate lobbying to collectively address these same issues with all levels of government.

MARR’s goals are to improve information sharing between its members, municipalities, MPSC, and the Province of Manitoba, as well as with other industry partners and organizations; enhance the recyclable material markets; develop stronger beneficial relationships with all stakeholders in order strengthen MARR’s negotiating and advocacy abilities; and aid its members to become more cost-efficient recyclers and environmental stewards.

Since its inception, MARR has accomplished a number of objectives that demonstrate its endurance, commitment, flexibility, openness, and impact in Manitoba. MARR has:

  • Expanded its original mandate to encompass municipalities and small for-profit recyclers as members;
  • Helped mentor new recycling organizations and strengthen existing ones;
  • Provided grassroots market information and an effective networking forum for the industry and its members;
  • Provide liaison / lobbying support from members and the industry to all levels of government.
  • Generated innovative marketing, processing, and promotion and education (P & E) ideas through its quarterly meeting opportunities;
  • Provide timely educational tours, workshops and conferences for its members and industry partners.

Through this Regional Recycling Best Practices Research and Promotion Project, MARR planned to strengthen the capacity of its members to respond to changes in the industry by:

  • Exploring the opportunities and challenges facing Manitoba communities / municipalities in relation to recycling and integrated waste management; and
  • Providing support to municipalities in promotion of these best practices (operational, financial, community education, etc.) through further information sharing opportunities (website, links to other organizations, mail outs, workshop / conference sessions, etc.).

To reach these goals, three objectives were identified:

  • Conducting case studies of representational Manitoba municipalities / communities of varying size, location and current recycling capacities to gain insight into the current state of the industry including successes, challenges, innovations and future plans.
  • Creating a mentoring database to document a list of knowledgeable persons so that these persons may be accessed to serve as ongoing resources to other municipalities, communities and/or environmental organizations. This data gathering also included documentation and web posting of the unique organizational history of MARR as well as a map highlighting service features of each MARR member site.
  • Co-hosting a provincial “State of the Industry” recycling conference in the near future to share information, present research results and gather additional industry feedback.

Within the membership of MARR is a repository of experience and perspectives. This project has enabled many of these observations to be collected in one place. One of the advantages of doing a project such as this is the assembling of this knowledge, which can otherwise be lost as the individuals forget the information they had, or move on from their recycling positions. As well, the following documentation of the history of MARR and recycling in Manitoba provides the historical context for today’s issues and tomorrow’s challenges.

A) A History of MARR and Recycling in Manitoba

MARR began in the fall of 1992, forming out of several meetings that were organized at the initiative of Manitoba Environment (now Manitoba Conservation). The need for a support network was identified among recycling organizations. Recycling had been recognized as a social and environmental concern to be addressed by society in general, and several organizations had been created to meet the need.

The mission statement of MARR was stated as: “to enhance the capabilities of Manitoba not-for-profit recycling organizations and to provide a means for concerns to be expressed and partnerships formed with various levels of government, industry, and other organizations.”

Although recycling of metals was firmly established over previous decades by for-profit scrap metal companies, general recycling of a variety of household materials was just beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By 1992, however, a number of communities had recycling programs, of one kind or another. Some of the players then were the provincial Manitoba Environment and federal Environment Canada (especially the Environmental Partners Fund) who were supporting beginning and innovative programs.

Markets for recyclable materials were also developing. For example, Western Scrap Metals in Winnipeg was expanding beyond traditional metals to include glass and plastics. The Abitibi newsprint paper mill at Pine Falls, Manitoba, began to accept newsprint for blending into its existing process. However, it could only take limited amounts of extremely sorted “#9” grade - which was exclusively plain newspapers, with no flyers or other paper. There was no comprehensive stewardship program, although Manitoba Soft Drink Recycling (MSDR) accepted soft drink (and some other beverage) containers and paid a small reimbursement to the supplying consumer or recycling organization.

Most recycling was done by small non-profit organizations that had sprung up. Examples included the Recycling Council of Manitoba in Winnipeg (formed in 1985) and the Westman Recycling Council (1989) in Brandon. These organizations set up demonstration recycling drop-off depots in shopping mall parking lots, often in tandem with MSDR depots. As well, a host of volunteer groups operated in other towns and rural areas.

MARR started as an informal network. Regular meetings, guest speakers, and facility tours became the cornerstones of MARR activities. Membership was initially limited to non-profit organizations. Municipalities were only infrequently involved, and the MARR’s mandate was seen in the non-profit, rather than the for-profit sector. At the same time, however, the for-profit sector was expanding, with waste haulers (such as BFI and Canadian Waste), waste recovery companies (such as Crown Packaging, now Metro Waste Paper Recovery), and brand new companies (such as Phoenix Recycling in Winnipeg) making their appearance. Often, representatives from these for-profit companies were invited to speak at MARR meetings and tours were arranged at their facilities.

An early, and continuing, issue relates to the degree of co-operation that is desirable, or feasible, among MARR members. How much processing and marketing should be done at the local level, and how much can be done jointly? Sharing of equipment has turned out be very difficult, with a few portable glass crushers about the only example. A “Request for Proposals” by MARR in 1994 to elicit ideas for joint marketing of materials on a province-wide basis did not result in any workable suggestions, and has not been pursued since.

MARR has always been an excellent way for members to exchange information and learn about the latest trends. These were three significant changes which emerged in the first years after MARR formed: the rapid rise and then collapse in paper prices in the 1994 - 1996 period, the creation of the Manitoba Product Stewardship Corporation (MPSC) in 1995, and the installation of the de-inking plant at the Pine Falls Paper Company (formerly Abitibi) in 1996. All of these show how changeable the recycling scene was becoming, and how trends could be inter-related. The low paper prices in 1996, for example, were mitigated by the new Pine Falls market which could: accept a broader range of paper (#8 grade), was relatively close by, and was offering long-term contracts. As well, consistent MPSC funding smoothed out more volatile sales revenues.

The creation of MPSC was a development that grew out of the Waste Reduction And Prevention (WRAP) Act of 1990. The first initiative was the Beverage Container and Packaging Regulation. During this time, as mentioned, the response was Manitoba Soft Drink Recycling, which was established by the industry. In 1995, a more comprehensive approach was desired. The Beverage Container and Packaging Regulation was repealed and replaced by the Multi-Material Stewardship Regulation, which created the statutory corporation of MPSC.

After MPSC started, much of the discussion at MARR meetings revolved around the new stewardship program, its funding, and its requirements. (Ken Friesen was important in this process as he served for a while as both MARR President and on the Board of Directors of MPSC.) As well, since the stewardship funding was reserved for municipalities, municipalities became more prominent in the recycling field. More money was now available to do more recycling, but municipalities would be the directors of the money. On the eve of the formation of MPSC, in 1994, MARR opened its membership to municipalities. Two years later, in recognition of the increasing role of the for-profit sector, membership was expanded again, this time to include small for-profit recycling businesses.

The new Multi-Material approach was very favourable to enhanced recycling, for two reasons. First, it covered a broad range of materials (newspapers and magazines, aluminium cans, glass, steel cans, and #1 PETE plastic (e.g. pop) bottles, to start, with more being added later). Second, 80% of municipal recycling costs were to be covered by the stewardship program. The theory underlying the program was “distributor responsibility,” which was to evolve later to Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR. (A major limitation with MPSC was that only the distributors of beverage containers were required to be financially responsible to the program.)

At the same time as MPSC, the Tire Stewardship Board (TSB) was created to deal with scrap tires. Municipal members, especially, of MARR were very interested in tires, and MARR arranged tours of tire processing facilities in Winnipeg and Winkler.

In 1997, the Used Oil, Filters and Containers Stewardship Regulation was passed, with the Manitoba Association for Resource Recovery Corporation (MARRC) set up to administer that program. The approach to used oil represented an evolution from the TSB and MPSC, in that MARRC (Board governance and related levies and programs) were designed by industry rather than by government legislation. Many municipal MARR members as well as some non-municipal ones (such as Portage and District Recycling) took advantage of the opportunity to establish a used oil EcoCentre in their community.

MARR members were, and continue to be, affected by these government stewardship policies. MARR has also made its collective views known, for example, in a letter regarding the MPSC business plan of 2004 - 2007 where MARR expressed its concerns about changes to the funding categories, revision of the funding formula structure, and the maintenance of the 80 / 20 partnership structure. MARR also recommended raising the beverage levy to three cents, and expanding the levy to a broader basket of materials.

Quarterly MARR meetings were fine, but a need was expressed by MARR members to go beyond that and participate in larger conferences to bring together partner organizations as well as more input from guest speakers, exhibits, and tours. The first such conference, “Manitoba Waste Reduction ‘94” was held in Winkler in April 1994 by the Pembina Valley Recycling Network (PVRN) and the Recycling Council of Manitoba (RCM). Representatives from recycling organizations, municipalities, industry and government agencies were able to meet one another. The PVRN was able to show off its program, as it was an early regional model of recycling.

In April 1996, MARR and RCM co-hosted a conference in Portage la Prairie entitled “The 50% Solution: A Manitoba Conference and Trade Show.” This conference firmly established MARR as an important player in the Manitoba scene. Guest speakers included the Honourable Glen Cummings, Minister of Environment for Manitoba.

In June 1998, another conference co-sponsored by MARR and RCM was held in Winnipeg, called “Breaking the Barriers: Waste Reduction Into the Millennium.” Since the previous conference in 1996, RCM had transformed itself from the Recycling Council of Manitoba to become Resource Conservation Manitoba. The name change reflected the fact that it was no longer physically doing recycling programs and had moved beyond recycling and waste reduction to encompass a broader approach to ecological sustainability.

In April 2000, MARR and RCM co-hosted the conference “The Ecology of Waste Reduction: Stewardship and Sustainability.” The conference, again held in Winnipeg, reflected RCM’s expanded mandate and featured the widest range of topics yet. Noted the Conference Co-chairs: ”Now that the year 2000 has arrived and that the 50% waste reduction goal has lost some of its allure, we reasoned that other environmental and process issues warranted exploring and were certainly encroaching on the horizon.” The conference included discussions of not only MPSC’s proposed new business plan, but also ethical perspectives on consumerism and ecological implications of globalization.

The two-year pattern of conferences was changed when MARR and RCM decided to partner with the Canadian Prairie Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) to jointly sponsor a conference in April 2003. That event, the “Solid Waste Management and Reduction Conference: Turning Green to Gold,” was held in Brandon. This conference reflected the increasing emphasis on a wider understanding of integrated municipal waste management.

In 2006, MARR members are looking at being very much impacted by the new provincial Green Manitoba Eco Solutions initiative that introduced its first discussion papers on the new look of Manitoba stewardship program in October 2005. As mentioned, MARR hopes to co-host a conference in 2007-08 that will revolve around industry changes and challenges that result from the stewardship shift to Extended Producer Responsibility.

The rest of this important report is available to MARR members only. To find out how your community/organization can become a MARR member, please visit that section of our website or by emailing office@marrmb.com.