02/04/2015 10:58 EST | Updated 04/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Saskatchewan government says recycling program fund being delayed

SASKATOON - Saskatchewan cities will have to wait a little longer before the provincial government starts funding residential recycling programs.

During the bear-pit session Wednesday at the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association convention in Saskatoon, delegates urged the province to hurry up and roll out its Multi-material Recycling Program.

The fund would work by getting businesses that produce recycling material to opt into the program as a steward.

Those stewards then pay a fee for every tonne of recyclable material they produce to Multi-material Stewardship West, which would then hand the money out to municipalities to help them pay for residential recycling programs.

But Environment Minister Scott Moe says the province will be delaying the MMRP to give businesses more time to learn about the program and to strike up a working group to help ease small and medium-sized businesses into the fund.

Moe says only about 25 per cent of businesses have signed up to participate, and the feedback from small and medium-sized businesses hasn't been too positive.

Moe says a working group will be formed in the coming weeks with a hopeful implementation date with partial funding for the MMRP by mid-2015.

The City of Saskatoon recently struck a nine-year deal with Cosmopolitan Industries to deliver apartment and condo recycling services on the basis the city would receive close to $1.5 million between 2015 and 2016 to help offset the cost of the program.

With users being charged $2.51 for the service, user fees alone would not cover the cost of the program.

Delegates at the SUMA convention feared a further delay in the MMRP would mean cities would resort to raising taxes or raising user fees to cover the cost of residential recycling. The other option was to simply abandon those programs.

“We are the very worst in the country when it comes to diverting our waste,” said Regina city councillor Wade Murray. "Let's get to where we're the best."