City explores 'pay-as-you-throw' garbage collection to increase waste diversion

By Dominic Abassi
May 30, 2018 - 9:48pm Updated: May 31, 2018 - 9:34am

One of Nanaimo's new automated garbage trucks. Its job description may be in for a big change next year.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — As Nanaimo residents continue to familiarize themselves with the last major change to their garbage collection, the City is already turning attention to another ambitious sanitation project.

A staff report presented to Council this week outlined the concept of transitioning to a "pay-as-you-throw" system, reducing the number of times garbage would be collected and charging extra fees for more pickups.

"This is the most progressive way we can manage our waste collection and I think the best way we can increase diversion in our community. It certainly represents a big change," Charlotte Davis, manager of sanitation and recycling, told Council.

Davis said Nanaimo's diversion rate (the amount of waste diverted away from the landfill) remained stagnant at 64 per cent since the green bin program was implemented in 2012. The Regional District of Nanaimo's long term goal is a 90 per cent diversion rate.

"Ask residents to think of their garbage collection as a utility...Like water, you would pay for what you use," Davis said. "Everybody in Nanaimo (currently) pays the same whether they're throwing away a lot of waste or a little bit of waste. We don't have the ability to charge by weight but we can charge by set-outs because we know how many times residents are putting out their carts."

The staff report pitched an example where residents would get 12 garbage and organic collections annually with their base user fee, with unlimited amounts of recycling picked up bi-weekly. Davis said the idea is the current average user wouldn't pay higher base fees than now.

"It could be seen as more equitable, but it might not be popular with everyone. For example, families with babies and diapers," she said.

Councillors Jerry Hong and Gord Fuller voiced their support for the pay-as-you-throw system.

"I know some residents don't use garbage and they shouldn't be paying for other people's uses," Hong said.

The concept is only at the discussion stage right now and the City plans to send out a resident survey in early 2019 to get ideas and feedback on waste diversion. From there, plans will be developed and Council direction sought, with further public consultation expected.

The proposal of a shift in collection frequency is one of several factors creating uncertainty around waste collection rates beyond 2018. The City said those fees are not projected to change this year.

The implementation of automated collection pushed the rate up more than 60 per cent to the current level of $165 annually.

The original plan for the transition to automation called for rates to drop in year two and beyond.

However, this week's staff report recommended a new route be added early next year to meet population growth. That would require a new truck, more carts and more staff.

"Operational changes" may also impact future user rates, the report said.

Meantime, the roll out of the second and final phase of automated collection begins in June. Six new trucks will collect more than 53,000 freshly delivered bins from 20,000 homes by the end of July. Phase one, serving 8,000 homes, started in October 2017.

The report said the new system was popular among residents who were part of phase one.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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