The City of Winnipeg could soon receive advertising credits from newspapers to compensate for the end of a recycling agreement, which city staff say has cost the local government nearly $1 million.
If council approves, a new proposal suggests the city accept advertising credits, in lieu of a cash payment, to bridge that gap. The city blames the shortfall on the provincial cancellation of a newspaper recycling agreement in 2017.
Winnipeg Free Press publisher Bob Cox, who speaks on behalf of Manitoba newspapers, said the proposal is feasible.
"This is a workable alternative for us. We can’t afford to be paying millions of dollars. Newspapers are economically stressed and have been for some time. We’re fighting for our future and we can’t afford these costs," said Cox. "This advertising-in-lieu solution is practised across the country… really, we’re just adopting a system that’s widely used elsewhere."
The Manitoba government provided stewardship fees to Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba from 2011 to 2017 on behalf of News Media Canada, which were used to reimburse municipalities for up to 80 per cent of the net cost of their residential recycling programs for packaging and printed paper.
In 2017, however, the province terminated the newspaper recycling agreement and cut off access to the fees. As of December 2020, the city says it is owed $912,064 for newsprint collection and processing.
The city report says that amount is forecast to rise to nearly $4.7 million by the end of 2025, though Cox cautioned that figure depends on many unknown factors, such as future newspaper production and recyclable material prices.
The city report does not list a set timeline for the credits. Cox said newspaper officials are willing to be flexible on that element of the agreement.
"We realize there’s a backlog and so we’re willing to be patient and work through that backlog over whatever period of time it takes," he said.
Coun. Brian Mayes, chairman of council’s environment committee, said he expects the agreement would create space for the city to educate the public about local recycling programs.
"I think that’s a good compromise," said Mayes. "If you use some of this free space to advertise more with the city about how to recycle, what options you have for the 4R depots… I think there’s some benefit to the city in this."
Mayes said he plans to vote in favour of the motion.
The report notes the city spends about $500,000 per year on advertising with News Media Canada partners. Winnipeg’s water and waste department spends about $100,000 more per year on newsprint, digital and display ads for its recycling and waste diversion programs.
If council doesn’t approve the agreement, the report states an arbitration process could be needed to settle the fee issue.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.