Metro Vancouver lashed over plan to hang onto garbage, fees

Contractors chafe at high disposal costs charged by region

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Philip Hochstein

Metro Vancouver is under fire for its plan to ban garbage haulers from trucking waste to transfer stations outside the region, where they don’t have to pay Metro’s steep tipping fees.

Independent Contractors and Businesses Association president Philip Hochstein said garbage tipping fees have already soared in recent years and are slated to leap another 43 per cent by 2017, increasing the burden on households and businesses.

“It’s another death by a thousand cuts in terms of housing affordability,” said Hochstein, who accused Metro of trying to squeeze out private haulers and create a “public sector monopoly” in the waste industry.

“The idea should not be to keep Metro Vancouver flush with money,” he said. “That may be Metro Vancouver’s objective but that is not the public’s objective.”

Metro says it must stop commercial haulers who pick up trash from condos and businesses from taking it to the Fraser Valley or Washington State – where they don’t pay Metro’s $107-a-tonne fee – or else the regional district will lose an ever-increasing flow of tipping fee revenue.

It’s going out to consultation on a proposed licensing system that would outlaw shipments to non-Metro facilities.

So far 50,000 tonnes per year of the region’s waste – about five per cent – flows out of the region, attracted by dumping costs that are roughly one-third lower.

That deprives Metro of about $5.3 million a year in lost fees, but officials fear that without regulation more and more haulers will also send waste out of Metro and the trickle of outbound trash will grow to a flood.

“The dollars are very large and the implications are very significant,” said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who chairs Metro’s zero waste committee.

Households on municipal garbage pickup would face much higher garbage and recycling costs if there’s an exodus of many other users who would no longer share the burden of the regional system.

Brodie said it would also threaten Metro’s abiity to meet its provincially mandated goal of diverting 70 per cent of waste by 2015.

“We’re losing revenue which is needed for those programs,” he said, adding Metro has “some very ambitious goals we need to reach.”

Garbage that heads out of the region isn’t subject to Metro’s disposal bans that aim to ensure many recyclable materials aren’t dumped.

Brodie said Metro also has differential tipping fees that are much lower for organics and other recyclables as an incentive to promote diversion.

He said contractors won’t be driven out of business – they’ll haul as usual but will all be required to use Metro transfer sites and pay Metro fees.

Metro’s regulation would only target business and multi-family building waste – not construction and demolition waste generated by the development industry.

Hochstein rejected Metro concerns that out-of-region hauling threatens to cripple the recycling system and said the rising costs are tied to Metro’s determination to build a new waste-to-energy plant.

“They’re trying to create an economic model to justify a $400-million investment in an incinerator,” he said. “It’s an unelected government trying to create a rationale for it to exist at the expense of private sector contractors and private clients.”

He said Metro should instead keep sending waste to the Cache Creek landfill.

Brodie said the waste-to-energy plans are not driving the new regulations, adding Metro has already scaled back the planned size of a possible new waste-fired power plant.

Existing Waste-To-Energy Facility in south Burnaby burns 280,000 tonnes of municipal garbage per year.

Waste plant call for proponents goes out

Metro Vancouver has launched its process to decide what kind of new waste-to-energy plant will be built and where it will go.

A request for qualifications was issued in late November that’s expected to result by March in a short list of three to six firms capable of building the plant or plants.

It’s up to them to propose technologies – which could include conventional incineration or various emerging conversion technologies.

The next phase later in 2013 will invite any property owner or city that wants to propose a site to step forward and for the short-listed proponents to also identify any sites they have secured.

That’s to result in the release of a list of potential sites next September.

Metro would then match up sites with technology proposals from the proponents to flesh out final project proposals, which would then bid against each other through a request for proposals.

That means it will be at least 2014 before residents know if Metro has picked a waste-to-energy site near them or even within the Lower Mainland.

Fraser Valley polticians oppose an in-region plant over air pollution concerns.

Extensive consultations, environmental assessments and provincial approvals are required before the plant – or plants – would be built, opening in 2018.

It would burn an extra 370,000 tonnes of garbage per year and Metro would stop sending waste to the Cache Creek regional landfill.