City of Powell River is taking another look at participating in a provincial packaging and paper residential-recycling program that will bring in revenue for the municipality.
City director of infrastructure Tor Birtig appeared before the city’s committee of the whole meeting on October 3 to present a report on the offer for the city to join Recycle BC, formerly known as Multi-Material BC (MMBC).
“We had this offer in 2014 and there were some concerns with the agreement,” said Birtig.
Birtig said staff was worried about the city facing fines for not meeting minimum per household recycling targets and due to recycling stream contamination from glass, Styrofoam and plastic bags.
He added that if the city had joined, city trucks would have been prohibited from collecting institutional recycling at city-owned buildings such as city hall, fire halls, Powell River Public Library and Powell River Recreation Complex.
City chief administrative officer Mac Fraser told the committee his staff did the right thing for the city by not joining.
“Three years ago, this was not a good deal,” said Fraser.
In 2014, Fraser said municipalities were facing “high-pressure tactics,” from MMBC, but since then the organization has reduced its approach.
Powell River’s garbage and recycling pickup currently costs just under $190,000 per year to operate, with another approximately $60,000 going toward tipping fees and transportation costs.
According to terms of the new deal, Recycle BC will provide about $180,000 in revenue to the city. Also, the city will no longer be responsible for paying for transfer and disposal of recycling it picks up.
Original agreement terms called for the city to meet minimum collection targets of 135 kilograms per household per year. In its current program, the city collects between 40 and 50 kilograms per household per year, said Birtig.
Residents used to separate materials for pickup by the item, but in 2014 the city moved to a mixed-materials approach to be inline with other MMBC communities.
Birtig said a recent recycling-stream audit showed the city has contamination levels below three per cent, Recycle BC’s acceptable contamination rate.
Recent talks with Recycle BC have shown the organization to be more flexible and indicate that it will allow the city to include its institutional recycling and reduce required annual per household recycling collection from 135 kg to between 80 or 90 kg, said Birtig.
Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, who represents the city on Powell River Regional District’s Solid Waste Management and Resource Recovery Plan advisory committee, said the lower amounts of pickup are not because the recycling not available, but due to a local culture of residents transporting their own garbage and recycling to the waste-transfer station.
“I don't think we'll have any problem meeting any targets,” said Leishman. “We need to improve our education in getting people to put their stuff out at the curb.”
Leishman added she is not aware of Recycle BC issuing fines and that Powell River Regional District’s experience with the organization has been “very successful.”
Birtig said city staff expects participation in curbside collection to increase once the city introduces its new bin system, removes garbage tags and residents have to pay for waste collection as part of their city taxes.
"We feel that everyone will get involved," he added, “and we'll see those numbers go up.”
Birtig said he is preparing to go into a meeting with chief financial officer Kathleen Day to discuss the financial implications of the deal on the city's budget. He said he favoured using the revenue to improve the city’s collection of food and yard waste.
Meanwhile, the city has taken possession of two new garbage and recycling trucks and expects to bring them into service with the city’s organics pilot project starting October 16.