Drop-off option on back burner
More education is needed to help the community understand the different options the Solid Waste Resource Management Advisory Committee (SWRMAC) is looking at, said SWRMAC chair Don Marshall at the council meeting on February 12, where he presented a follow-up report to the committee’s presentation on February 4. Public meetings and possibly surveys to elicit meaningful input from residents are envisioned to be part of the process.
“Subsequent to our meeting last Monday, the committee has done some soul-searching about what solid waste management should entail,” he said, explaining that further study of the drop-off option and further investigation of a municipal composting system have been deferred. “We have to do education work talking to the community to find out how much they want a composting system and that it would require some sacrifices to accomplish that.” He added that, due to “predicted unfavourable economics,” the committee will focus on other options for now.
“We have the intention to continue working on [the drop-off option], but need to do a good job helping the community to understand what it is all about,” Marshall said, adding that his sense of the issue was that even council was not up to speed. SWRMAC member Dai Roberts explained, “We feel that there is a massive misunderstanding what drop off means. Drop off means that we continue a pick-up service for everyone who wants it. But for those who prefer another option, we provide a drop off facility.”
Mayor Jack Adelaar said, “A comprehensive education process maybe starts with council but the community should have a shot at it as it affects every household. The community as a whole would want to weigh in on drop off as opposed to pickup and I would like hearing what the public has to say about the concept.”
Councillor Andrew Stone said that he isn’t convinced that further discussion of a drop-off option is “good use of time given the dubious economic and environmental benefits.” Stone explained that he believes that the carbon footprint of a couple of garbage trucks is lower than that of many people driving to the drop-off station. “[The municipality’s] garbage removal is one of the most economic services for taxpayers. It comes to about $5.75 a week, what does your cable cost and what does your hydro cost?” Stone said, adding that he believes that garbage pickup is an important service, especially for seniors and the commuter community and that having a drop off option would potentially affect the pickup. “We have the economy of scale and if the people who decide to get pick-up from the curb need to pay a lot more, the service to the community is going to be more limited in addition to costing more.”
Councillor Alison Morse said that her garbage can doesn’t fit in the back of her car and she wouldn’t want to have to lift it. “We have a very good pick-up system in place,” she said, adding that the municipality’s householders’ survey showed that residents place a high importance on and have high satisfaction with garbage collection.
Councillor Cro Lucas welcomes the option of a drop-off. “Personally, I don’t have problem with taking my garbage when I do my recycling.” Councillor Darron Jennings also said that a drop-off made sense for his household. “I have a long driveway and a lot of recycling,” he said. “Speaking of carbon footprint, this is hard to calculate without knowing more. Maybe we can start small and put a drop-off system in place as a pilot project. We can see how it is used and at least have some tangible data.”
Councillor Wolfgang Duntz says he believes that the committee should come up with list of desired outcomes to take to contractors. “You ask the private industry to handle issues that could include shipping recycling, waste and compost and see if the contractors can deliver or not. We have a number of people who’ve expressed interest to be involved like Bowen Waste, J&E Backhoe and Twin Island,” he said.
In the coming months, SWRMAC will work with a restructured time line, says Marshall, and direct efforts toward “drafting the essential elements” of a contract to enable a solid waste contractor to begin work in January 2014. CAO Kathy Lalonde said that the new waste management contract will not include a drop-off option. About long-range options, Marshall said, “At this point of time, we look at a contract that has clauses that allow us to take compost and greens to a composter on island or that would permit drop-offs.”
The committee is also looking to maximize the efficiency of transport systems to the Metro Vancouver transfer station and various recycle brokers. “We have many thoughts on how we can make this work. My concept is that we won’t start with huge savings but eventually will go to a significant amount of dollars,” Marshall said.
In order to accomplish this, the committee was asking council to approve an increase of $10,000 to the public works budget. That sum includes funds for a land survey of the Bowen Island Recycling Depot (BIRD) site, tests for compacting waste to be delivered to the North Shore Transfer Station and the engagement of Buddy Boyd of the Gibsons Recycling Centre as a consultant. Marshall said that Boyd runs a private entrepreneurial recycling centre that employs five people from its proceeds. “We feel that we can benefit from his expertise, he can help us to look at all we can do to cut costs,” he added.
Adelaar suggested that budgetary matters should be brought to the director of finance’s attention. CAO Kathy Lalonde suggested to refer the financial matter to the 2013 budget process.
Councillor Alison Morse wanted to know whether the survey was necessary since the options for drop-off and a municipal composting facility at the BIRD site were not considered in the short range. Roberts said that he did a lot of measuring at the site and feels that surveying is necessary to “take it to the next step.” He also expanded on the committee’s additional ideas for the site. “We use the term ‘new to me’ and envision a used construction and hard ware area that could generate some income. It could be rented or sold,” he said. “To put idea into a concept, we need to tidy up the present site.”
In an email to the Undercurrent, Marshall clarified that “BIRD never has been, nor never will be a drop-off place for garbage - it is strictly for items and materials that can be recycled. There is a transfer station or ramp behind BIRD that is used by Bowen Waste Services to load bins with both organics and non-organics that has [been considered as a potential drop-off site].”