Surrey and other Metro Vancouver cities may now see a surge in illegal dumping as a result of the regional district’s move to sharply increase its charge to dispose of small garbage loads at local transfer stations.
The tipping fee for small loads will go up nearly 20 per cent to $130 per tonne in April, and the minimum charge rises from $10 to $15, resulting in the average small load costing $31 instead of $22 previously.
Metro Vancouver regional district directors voted Friday to shift to a new tiered structure for waste fees that raises rates for small loads while creating a lower $80 per tonne tipping fee for large loads to give major haulers a 25 per cent break.
The move aims to make Metro transfer stations more competitive against private ones in Abbotsford and halt the growing trend of commercial haulers taking garbage out of the region.
Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele predicted illegal dumping will get worse, increasing clean-up costs for local cities, including Surrey.
“It is a major problem and I think we’re compounding it,” Steele said during debate on the new fees.
“We’re still counting mattresses and junk all over the place because it costs (people) more to get rid of it than dump it on the ground somewhere.”
She and other Surrey directors voted against the bylaw change, which passed with support from other cities, including Vancouver.
The outflow of garbage to Abbotsford and the U.S. has reduced Metro’s tipping fee revenue and left it unable to enforce bans on the dumping of recyclables on loads that go elsewhere.
Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer said lowering the fees for large loads was the only option for the region after the provincial government last year blocked Metro’s attempt to ban the export of waste out of the region.
She said it has long been Metro’s policy to gradually raise tipping fees to create a greater incentive to recycle but said the province’s “ill thought out decision” has put the region in a “dire position.”
The government is still reviewing whether further regulations to control waste flow in Metro are required.
While costs go up to take a load of garbage directly to a transfer station, the drop in fees for large loads should also mean savings will flow through to residents for curbside pickup.
That’s because cities or their contractors will now be charged the lower $80 Metro tipping fee for the residential waste collected by garbage trucks.
Metro board chair Greg Moore said that will result in his city of Port Coquitlam saving about $150,000 a year and said that money will be passed along in the form of lower fees.
He also said multi-family buildings, businesses and other customers of commercial haulers should insist on reduced rates as well so their providers don’t simply pocket the 25 per cent saving.
Smaller loads have always been costlier for Metro to handle and they were subsidized with revenue from the more efficient large loads, Moore said, adding the changes will now help correct that imbalance.
He said the old system had become unsustainable.
The changes to tipping fees were drawn up after Metro saw a 60 per cent jump in waste hauled out of the region in December compared to a year earlier and forecast a $4.5-million deficit in the solid waste budget due to an expected drop in waste flow and resulting tipping fee revenue.
Russ Black, vice-president of Belkorp Environmental, said Metro’s board has merely reapportioned who pays for the regional waste system with the fee changes instead of cutting its high underlying costs.
“It’s kind of like shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Black, whose firm runs the Cache Creek landfill that Metro intends to stop using in favour of more waste-to-energy incineration.
He predicts the lowered fees for big loads will be short-lived, in part because Metro’s effort to divert organics from the waste stream will, if successful, further cut into tipping fee revenue.
Black said businesses in Metro should also fear the likelihood of dramatically rising tipping fees in the future because the new fees don’t yet include the potential $500-million capital cost of a planned new waste-to-energy plant.
“Take the incineration project off the table,” Black suggested as a cost-cutting measure. “It’s something no one wants.”