‘I’ll be going to jail before I comply;’ Coquitlam-based KMS Tools & Equipment fined $19,000 for refusal to comply with recycling regulation
The Coquitlam-based company, KMS Tools & Equipment Ltd., has been fined $19,000 by the province for refusing to comply with recycling regulations.
Following repeated warnings dating back to June 24, 2021, the company was issued an administrative penalty on March 7, 2023.
The company has willfully violated regulations, and has displayed no indication of future compliance, according to the Ministry of Environment’s final determination.
“I’ll be going to jail before I comply,” KMS Tools President Stan Pridham wrote in an email to the ministry.
KMS Tools is a distributor and retailer of tools, with 13 locations across B.C. and Alberta.
Its regulatory infractions, however, related to more than one tonne of flyers, booklets, catalogs, and other packaging and paper products it distributes to its residential and industrial customers.
Product-making companies are required to have a provincially approved Extended Producer Responsibility Plan (ERP).
ERPs are the province’s way to ensure businesses provide recycling options for products they sell with limited life spans. Options could include curbside collections or collection depots.
The regulations, amended in 2011 to include paper products, are intended to make companies more environmentally friendly and produce less waste.
Companies can appoint an agency to carry out their ERPs, with RecycleBC being the only approved organization for paper recycling (aside from beer packaging products).
KMS Tools did not dispute that no ERP is in place in its submissions to the ministry.
Rather, the company has continuously argued that the regulations do not apply to it, or alternatively, that it’s impossible for them to comply.
KMS Tools informed the ministry it doesn’t need to comply because it is an “industrial distributor” and RecycleBC cannot act as its agent. The company also contended that its competitors are exempt from the regulations and that KMS Tools has an “unofficial exemption.”
The ministry disputed all these points.
It stated that the ministry and RecycleBC have repeatedly told KMS Tools dating back to September, 2020, that RecycleBC can help it get in compliance.
The company criticized RecycleBC because it’s not headquartered in B.C. This point is irrelevant to the regulations, the ministry responded.
The company has further claimed – without citing evidence or relevance, according to the ministry – that 99.75 percent of businesses in B.C. are exempt from the regulation, and that it is unfair to force them to comply.
The ministry provided a list of its competitors that have signed agreements with RecycleBC, which include Lee Valley Tools, Snap-On Tools, Busy Bee Tools, Canadian Tire, Home Depot and Lordco.
No record could be found of any “unofficial exemption” status related to KMS Tools, according to the ministry.
“I find that KMS Tools simply refused to do this, for its own reasons, none of which are supported by any relevance to the regulation’s requirements,” the ministry’s determination stated.
The company was initially cited for a $38,000 fine in the initial notice, but the final determination was reduced to $19,000.
The infraction was considered a major contravention by the ministry, as ERPs are the ministry’s only way to ensure regulatory objectives are being met.
Allowing select producers to skirt these obligations would create an uneven playing field, the ministry concluded.
Other aggravating factors included the company’s refusal to accept information or guidance on how to get into compliance, despite numerous phone calls and emails, and avoidance of substantial fees associated with RecycleBC’s program.
The adverse effects of the infractions, however, were considered low and not something that would harm the environment.
The company has been given 30 days from the date of the decision to file an appeal or pay the fine, otherwise it faces a monthly three percent interest rate (on top of the prime lending rate).
If the payment is not received, the company will be ineligible for permits or approvals, and the ministry can suspend or cancel its authorization under the Environmental Management Act.
Pridham claims that the quote used by the ministry was taken out of context, and said it was written in reference to how it’s impossible to get his business in compliance.
He further asserts much of the information in the final determination contains false information, and said that none of the businesses listed by the ministry are their direct competitors.
Companies are forced to use RecycleBC, Pridham said, which he claims is run by a for-profit company in Toronto.
The RecycleBC program is administered by Circular Materials, a registered national non-profit in Toronto. Its board of directors, however, are all executives of large corporations in the food industry.
“The packaging component might work well for the food industry who the program was designed for,” Pridham said. “There are very few options for BC businesses to go to manufacturers and get the packaging made smaller just for BC.”
KMS Tool goes “above and beyond” environmental norms, according to Pridham, listing a number of their practices and programs.
He called the ERP program a “money grab,” and cited 2014 criticism of the program from former NDP small-business critic Lana Popham, and business groups.
Pridham said he is in contact, and plans to meet with local MLA Selina Robinson over the issue.
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch