Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Garbage can swaps and fee increases among themes from Waste Bylaw review at City Council

There's seemingly some good news on the way for residents who had registered their complaints over the size of the city's mandated grey garbage cans, you may soon be able to swap them over for a larger version, though you'll have to pay an exchange fee and a find a yearly charge on your annual utility bill.

That was one of a number of themes that came out of a discussion on the city's new Waste Bylaw provisions, a document which was approved by Council on Monday night.

The overview of City's latest approach towards recycling, garbage collection and landfill themes was supposed to be delivered for the public through the Committee of the Whole portion of the night where Director or Operations Richard Pucci was to give a presentation to the topic.

However, while the Council members in Chambers gained the benefit of his work on the bylaw, those viewing at home were left in the dark, as technical issues plagued the start of the council session, the broadcast starting up as Mr. Pucci was wrapping up.

The Bylaw itself came up for review later in the Council session, though the Director of Operations noted at that time that he had nothing more to add to the discussion from that which he had presented earlier in the evening (which only Council members heard). 

So city residents for the most part are still rather in the dark as to how the new regimen will roll out.

Some nuggets of information were gleaned during the Council review, as Councillors asked questions about some elements of the Bylaw themes; the discussion led off by Councillor Adey who sought some clarification on the wording of some of the elements of the document.

The Councillor also had questions related to the fees and charges and concerns over the proposed increase on the tipping fees.

"What I see is the regular tipping fees as of 2022 will go then from a minimum of five to a minimum of ten which is double ... I'm just ... wondering a couple of things. What't the thought behind that kind of an increase like that and just to contextualize it. At the same time we're introducing a measure in the form of new refuse containers that encourages less refuse to be picked up and it may be that some people find themselves going to the landfill more often with their truckloads of stuff, so I'm wondering whether people might see that as a double hit" -- Councillor Nick Adey

Towards the fee scale, Mr. Pucci noted that the schedule of fees was reflective of the fees charged in other communities, though he did observe that if the city wanted to encourage smaller tipping fees then the city could reduce the rates.

It was an observation that led to a wider discussion from the council membership. On the tipping fees discussion, Councillor Randhawa shared many of the same concerns as Adey had  when it comes to impact of the fees schedule on residents.

For his part, Councillor Mirau observed on the rates in Prince Rupert compared to the Northwest and province. The councillor noting how he views the approach of penalizing excessive waste and incentivizing those residents who take action on that. 

"From my perspective ... five dollars is really abnormally low, not just looking in the North but looking across the entire province. And I think that's borne out in the fact in that we see that the North Coast has one of the highest waste per Capita rates in the entire province. 

I mean just General Fee structures, really we want to approach it where we want to penalize the things that we don't want, which is excessive waste and we want to incentive the things that we do want which is people to take some type of reasonable actions to reduce it" -- Councillor Blair Mirau

Councillor Mirau also added that he supported the proposed increases noting how it can reduce the capital costs related to the landfill site and other elements of the city's waste structure .

As the fees discussion continued through the session, Mayor Brain suggested an incremental system of gradual fee increases to reach the ten dollar mark, which was a concept accepted by the rest of the council membership.

Councillor Adey also asked what kind of an impact a staged system of fee increases may have on the operation projections for the program, with Mr. Pucci suggesting it wouldn't have much of an impact on the revenue projections.

As part of the back and forth on the night, Mr. Pucci called attention to some of the challenges that are found at the Prince Rupert landfill facility as opposed to other communities and how the increases are to bring in more revenue to cover operation of the site.

Towards the use of the landfill site Councillor Wade Niesh reflected on how raising the rates may have other consequences of trash accumulating in the bush and other areas, he also reviewed some of his household's approach to garbage as well as his observations from his time at the landfill site and how he has found much material taken to the landfill that could be recycled instead. 

The councillor adding his view that the city needs to start enforcing the actions of those who use the landfill site and how he himself has challenged and called out some people towards their use of the landfill.

"We do need to do a lot of work to encourage people to separate their garbage. Out of anyone on this council  I'm probably the one that visits the landfill the most ... it just disgusts me the amount of stuff that gets thrown out that could be recycled ... I think that as an organization we need to start enforcing peoples actions out there and that's where I think we're failing. " -- Councillor Wade Niesh

Image from Mayor' Brain's Facebook video of July 2021

As for the calls of the past related to the size of the city supplied grey cans. The Mayor introduced the topic of residents accessing a larger garbage bin that the one supplied in September by the City, should they require more capacity for their household.

Mr. Pucci outlined how that exchange program would work, with residents to pay a one time fee to swap their smaller city supplied grey garbage can for a larger one, which would be the same size as the blue recycling bins that have been received.

There will also be an annual fee for the larger can that will be put on the residents utility bill for that household, that fee to be rolled into the bylaw that Council had in front of it.

"So we'll be messaging that in the campaign moving forward ... there is going to be a one time fee to switch out the can and then there is an annual fee for a larger can, that  we will then be putting on the utilities for that household, so that is rolled into this bylaw" -- Director of operations Richard Pucci

According to the chart of fees provided as part of the Agenda, that additional fee would start at 100 dollars for the household in 2022, rising by two dollars in each of the next two years.

The fee schedule also notes of the cost of repair or replacement of the city supplied cans.

click to enlarge

The Director of Operations also noted in his overview that there would be a vigorous message making campaign to explain the process ahead for the residents of the community.

There was also some discussion as to how the city should strive for a Zero Waste community goal.

"The education that this is brand new, 2022 is going to be the fist year where people are going to have this program. I agree with Councillor Mirau which is the long term vision is that this is a Zero Waste community. 

That's ultimately what we're trying to do. 

The organic stream pick up, I think that's what 30 or 40 precent sometimes of the waste is organics, so once we can get move into that as well;  the whole idea is that everyone will aspire to be like Councillor Niesh and have one little white garbage bag a week of garbage" -- Mayor Lee Brain

The Mayor also recounted some of his travels with his wife of 2017 and how he spoke to community leaders in Sweden to learn more about how they collected their waste and how it was used.

Mr. Brain also noted how it had been appropriate for the City to delay the start of recycling which was originally scheduled to start in September.

Councillor Cunningham also called attention to the need to ensure that out of town companies make use of the civic facilities for collection of liquid waste, towards that Mr. Pucci noted that a letter would be sent to those providers to ensure that they do use the city facility.

The full overview of the bylaw is available for review from the Council Agenda, though the amended version with the new rates and additional elements will be released when council provides its fourth reading of the bylaw changes at a future Council session.

For a look at the discussion to the topic see the City's Video Archive starting at the 56 minute mark.

More notes on Monday's Council session can be reviewed from our Council Timeline Feature.

Past themes on recycling and garbage can be explored here.

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