Solid Waste

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Everywhere I go I hear everything from “why don’t we have garbage pickup?” to “everything is fine, leave it alone”. The reality is the Council majority hasn’t supported change for years. The community is split on the issue. Current Council tried to start a review, but the majority turned down a staff report recommending $80K be spend to review this by a consultant. The staff report was comprehensive and all that needed to be done from there, in my opinion, was to go out for ‘expressions of interests’  from providers to find out the cost of each of the components of a solid waste program.

The Province has mandated changes for a full organics ban by 2015 including ‘full extended producer responsibility’ for packaging and printed-paper. Multi Materials BC (MMBC) is the organization tasked with the responsibility by the Province, to shift this responsibility from Government to the producers. This gave Maple Ridge little choice but to sign into the MMBC program as the staff rightly recommended. This program changes aspects of our recycling, including setting fixed rates for commodities. How well the MMBC programs work out remains to be seen. Maple Ridge is currently well placed compared to other communities given our existing recycling program. This allows Maple Ridge to either stay with MMBC or opt out depending on the results of the program.

Another key issue that is ongoing is how our non-recyclables are disposed. Currently as a region, we bury or burn our garbage.  All indications are that a new Metro Vancouver regional “waste to energy incinerator” will be approved in addition to the existing incinerator in Burnaby. Personally I feel it is far too soon to decide anything. If we don’t track, measure and then make decisions based on recycling programs and their results, how do we know if we are on the right track? The cost to Maple Ridge taxpayers is significant if Metro Vancouver approves this. We will pay a share of the $500M capital cost of construction, and unknown operating costs over and above.

All communities in B.C. must meet the new provincially mandated diversion levels by 2015, including composting and removal of recyclables from the landfill stream. There are a number of questions we need to answer before we can make any decisions on how best to deal with the future of waste disposal. These questions cannot be answered until we have met the requirements of the new policies and examined our processes and costs related to them. By majority vote the issue was deferred by current Council. The best course of action would be to have the next Council support a review of the effects of the new policies once they have been in place for a while and then informed decisions can be made. Failing this course of action, the existing programs offered by Maple Ridge in tandem with private services will have to serve our citizens on an ongoing basis.

I support a full review once the new provincial policies have been in effect and Maple Ridge has complied with them for at least a year. This should provide sufficient time to properly assess the program and a reasonable plan of action to either supplement the current service or replace it. I do think that it is a municipal obligation to plan and deliver citizens a cost-efficient and complete solid waste removal service.