Metro Vancouver shakes up garbage tipping fees to tame U.S. exports

Small waste loads to pay more so big trucks can be offered 25 per cent rate break to dump at local transfer stations

It's expected to cost more to drop off small loads of garbage at Metro Vancouver transfer stations to enable the regional district to cut its rates for large commercial haulers.

Metro Vancouver is proposing to slash its garbage tipping fee for large-volume haulers by about 25 per cent while raising the rates ordinary residents pay to drop off smaller loads at transfer stations.

The shift to a tiered structure for waste disposal fees is the regional district’s attempt to staunch a growing flow of commercial haulers taking garbage out of the region to landfills in the U.S.

The recommendation, if approved by the board this month, would drop the current $109 per tonne tipping fee to $80 for trucks that haul more than nine tonnes, while the fee for small loads of up to one tonne would jump to $130 per tonne. Medium loads would continue to pay $109 per tonne.

An additional $5 transaction fee would also be added to all loads.

The minimum fee for small household loads would rise from $10 to $15 per load and the average small load charge would climb from $22 to $31, according to a staff report going to Metro’s zero waste committee Thursday.

Small loads account for most of the costs of the system and had been subsidized by larger haulers that can be handled more efficiently, but the report warned that model is becoming unsustainable as more commercial haulers opt for cheaper out-of-region disposal, estimated to cost them $70 to $80 a tonne.

Metro board chair said Greg Moore said the reduced rate for large trucks should win back that business for Metro, which had forecast 130,000 tonnes would go out of region this year.

“We heard loud and clear we needed to make some changes,” Moore said. “Hopefully haulers decide to keep the garbage in region because it’s cost competitive not to haul it out to Abbotsford and run it down to the U.S.”

Recapturing the lost  waste would bring back lost tipping fees needed to support the region’s recycling initiatives and help ensure customers abide by Metro disposal bans that aren’t enforced elsewhere.

Metro had tried to outlaw out-of-region waste exports with its Bylaw 280.

But that strategy was rejected by the provincial government last fall after strong lobbying by various business groups that feared they would pay ever higher Metro tipping fees if they were denied an out-of-region alternative.

“Now that we’ve addressed that concern – in a very progressive and aggressive way – I would hope the business community would get on board with this and that the savings would be passed on to the businesses and not just be kept by the haulers,” Moore said.

The amount of garbage being hauled out of the region was 60 per cent higher in December than the same month a year earlier.

The declining garbage volumes at Metro transfer stations have translated into less money from tipping fees for Metro and was forecast to mean a $4.5 million deficit for the regional district in 2015. That’s forecast to ease to $3 million this year with the rate change.

Metro officials don’t believe the hike in fees for small loads will trigger a surge in illegal dumping, which is already a significant concern and expense for municipalities.

Moore said he believes the proposal “hits the right balance” between offering a lower price to win back big loads while avoiding not raising small load rates so much as to trigger a sharp jump in illegal dumping.

He also acknowledged there’s concern among some recycling industries that the lower rate for large loads may mean less incentive for recycling.

Loads taken to the Maple Ridge transfer station are charged an extra $4 per tonne to support local recycling.

One other area where different tipping fees would be applied is at the Metro-run Matsqui transfer station in Abbotsford.

The City of Abbotsford has stopped sending single family residential garbage to the Matsqui transfer station and Metro says tipping fees there must rise to $150 per tonne to ensure cost recovery.

The changes would take effect April 6 if the new tipping fee bylaw is approved.

Metro continues to pursue the procurement of a new waste-to-energy plant.

Critics of Bylaw 280 had argued the effort to force waste to stay in region was aimed at retaining a fuel source for a new incinerator as well as the tipping fee revenue required to build it.