What is waste worth?
Regional District of Nanaimo directors debated raising tipping fees Tuesday night for small waste haulers to subsidize larger haulers, but in the end voted to stick with the status quo.
The RDN’s Solid Waste Services is financed primarily by tipping fees, however, last year tip fee revenues were $850,000 less than expected in the budget.
The shortfall comes from large haulers shipping waste outside the region, likely to the United States, for a lower cost of disposal. Additional influences include less waste being generated due to economic factors, a higher use of waste stewardship and recycling programs and a reduction in packaging.
Seven large commercial waste haulers operate in this region. In 2013, two of them discontinued shipping waste to the regional landfill, taking their garbage across the border.
While small waste haulers make up around 90 per cent of the RDN’s clientele, big haulers make up most of the revenue. In the worst-case scenario, an RDN staff report claimed “leakage could increase to the point that only waste sourced from curbside collection under the current control of the RDN would continue to go to the regional landfill.”
But director Julian Fell, who represents Coombs/Errington, said “it’s not a trash leakage problem we have, it’s a money leakage problem.”
Fell said bulk haulers, likely hauling for multi-family buildings and commercial users in Nanaimo, are getting a cheaper rate by taking their trash to the U.S.
“In effect they’re getting a break and the shortfall in cash is to be made up by transferring the shortfall of cost onto the little guys which I don’t think is particularly fair,” said Fell. “It’s also an incentive for illegal dumping.”
The cost increase would be about $2 for small haulers.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot,” said Fell. “But when someone finds out they have to pay $6 or $8 to dump a couch maybe they’ll say, ‘I’ll just leave it here in the woods and problem solved.'”
Fell added, “the new fee structure might not stop big haulers from choosing the export option.”
Director Bill Veenhof, who represents Deep Bay/Bowser, echoes Fell’s comments.
“The bottom line is that 75,000 people — the little guys, our constituents — visit the dump every year and we’re proposing to add $2 to their visit…that represents roughly a 25 per cent increase in their dumping costs and just becomes an excuse to illegally dump, it wouldn’t be logical but I know the dialog will happen,” said Veenhof. “And don’t forget it’s the little guy who will have to carry the debt of this garbage dump over the next 20 years, or whatever the remediation time is going to be and when you factor that into the equation maybe we should be looking after the little guy.”
But some directors voiced more concern over the big haulers than the small ones. “We have a better chance of success at stopping migration of trash simply because the Canadian dollar has taken a dump,” said director Alex McPherson, who represents Cedar. “It takes an awful lot of those small individual hauls to make up one load in a truck, a lot of them, that’s why we see the difference.”
Nanaimo Coun. Jerry Hong said “if we stay with the status quo and they leave, we’re up the creek without a paddle.”
In a close weighted vote, the board decided to stick with the status quo leaving tipping fees at their current rate while the Solid Waste Management Plan is under review. RDN staff will continue to monitor out-of-region disposal trends.