Metro Vancouver garbage fee overhaul criticized

Tipping fee 'chaos' in past year since province rejected regional district's attempt to ban waste shipments to U.S.

A new shakeup of Metro Vancouver’s garbage tipping fee system is being criticized as unfair.

The regional district will charge all municipalities or their contractors a flat $100 a tonne next year to dump garbage collected from single-family homes.

But private haulers that pick up from multi-family buildings will continue to pay $80 a tonne – the lowest rate for large loads under the variable tipping fees that continue for commercial waste services.

Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge voted against the change, calling it an unfair two-tier system.

“Out in the public, it looks like we’re favouring privatized services over city services,” Hodge told directors at the Sept. 18 Metro Vancouver board meeting.

The $80 a tonne rate for loads heavier than nine tonnes is unchanged, but the tipping fee on loads less than one tonne will rise from $130 to $133 per tonne, and the fee on mid-size loads climbs from $109 to $112 per tonne.

Metro officials argued it’s fairer to charge a flat fee on the municipal garbage so some cities don’t pay more than others under the variable rates.

Chief administrative officer Carol Mason said many cities had budgeted to pay the mid-size $109 per tonne rate, so the $100 rate is “better for many of them.”

A staff report indicates that may rise to $109 per tonne in 2017.

An additional $5 transaction fee is charged on all loads.

Metro moved to the variable rates in April to give a deep discount to large commercial haulers who had increasingly been sending waste to Abbotsford and then to a U.S. landfill because of the relatively higher cost of using Metro transfer stations. All other users have effectively had to subsidize the large loads.

The regional district had tried last year to ban the shipping of garbage out of the region, but that was blocked by the provincial government.

The outflow of commercial waste has sharply declined thanks to Metro’s price-cutting strategy, as well as the higher cost of sending garbage to the U.S. due to the weak Canadian dollar.

That’s expected to mean Metro will avoid a $4.5-million deficit previously projected on its waste operations. The regional district has also cut eight jobs and pared $2 million from the $90-million solid waste budget.

Directors say they can’t return to a consistent tipping fee structure without once again spurring haulers to go elsewhere, depriving Metro of fees and the ability to enforce bans on the dumping of recyclables.

“It’s the best compromise that we can come up with,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said.

He blamed the province’s rejection of Metro’s waste export ban for creating the pricing “chaos.”

Several municipalities remain concerned that the higher tipping fees charged to people who take small loads of junk to a transfer station is causing more illegal dumping.

But Metro officials say there’s been no observed increase in illegal dumping, which they estimate at as many as 50,000 incidents a year, costing local cities an estimated $3 million to clean up.

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