REPORTING · 9th July 2015
At the committee of the whole meeting on Monday, June 22nd, Kitimat Council received a presentation from Maura Walker on recycling. It covered a wide range of topics and members of Kitimat Understanding the Environment were seated in the Gallery to see what she had to say.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working with BC Local Governments on Solid Waste Management Issues. My forte is long range planning for solid waste management. I’m usually helping people reach their waste diversion goal, helping to set up recycling and composting systems and things of that nature,” said Walker.
She explained the purpose of her presentation was to attempt to stimulate discussion within Council. She was going to talk about ideas which other communities have adopted. She defined solid waste as what is discarded from residential and commercial institutional activities. It is garbage, but it includes recycling and composting. This does not include industrial, hazardous, medical, agricultural or forestry waste.
Walker told the Council they need to understand what people throw away, as it gives them an opportunity to figure out how to decrease what is thrown away. When a study was done by the Regional District of Frasier, Fort George where a company spent a week pulling apart garbage from homes and businesses, they found the majority was organic waste, but there were also metals, plastic, paper and glass as well as a variety of other items.
One third of the waste was compostable while another third was recyclable. Six per cent were items that could go to a provincial take back program, while 38% was trash. She stated most of this came from the business sector.
Walker explained about 15% of waste in the Regional District is being recycled; the rest is going to the landfill. She told Council that communities that have instituted recycling programs are usually concerned about making their landfills last a long time, while those which are not, such as Kitimat, are either involved in the oil and gas industry or live too far away from recycling centres.
She stated solid waste management involves a range of activities. These include reducing, repurposing, recycling, recovery and the residual goes into the landfill. Putting these activities together requires communication, education, financing and regulation enforcement.
“Diversion tends to be where the big focus is for a lot of local governments,” said Walker. “It extends the life of your landfill, […] it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, it creates jobs, […] and similarly with the jobs, if we introduce the resource into the economy, it’s now a resource rather than a waste we have to get rid of.”
She explained with the expectation of new landfill requirements in the future, they are expecting landfilling costs to increase. One of these requirements will be post closure requirements. At one time, it was expected that when a landfill closed, it would need to be monitored and maintained for 20 years. Now, it’s expected to be monitored for over 100 years.
Walker told Council two things which they will need to be aware of in the near future are the people coming into town and the trash which they might bring with them. In addition, the new landfill the Regional District is creating is expected to have steep tipping fees, and the tipping fees in Kitimat are low, so there could be a migration of waste into the Kitimat landfill due to our close proximity to Terrace.
She spoke to Kitimat Council about the local recycling options, programs and repurposing programs in the community as well as other waste disposal programs. She congratulated Council on a number ideas and programs which are available locally.
Walker ran Council through some case studies and successes, such as the program in Nanaimo and Grand Forks.
She stated Kitimat has an opportunity for curbside recycling, which opens the door for funding. Some communities are waiting for the funding, as there is a long list for it, while others are implementing it on their own. Walker suggested limiting the number of garbage cans a residence can put out ensures recyclables go to where they need to be.
Walker told the Council the education, policy and service needs to link together. To get businesses to recycle more often, they should implement a tipping fee. She said a tipping fee would be a financial communication to the business sector.
She finished her presentation by talking about the need to reduce the amount of waste, which is a difficult concept because how do you tell people not to buy things and convince businesses to use less packaging. Walker showed council several campaigns which reduce waste.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked about Multi Materials British Columbia, who has a provincial mandate to reduce waste by 80% Province Wide. He expressed they promised that if the local government was unwilling to take it on, they would find an organization in the community who would be willing to do it.
“They turned around and put it in the Kitimat Bottle Depot, it’s a joke,” said Feldhoff. “I think we have motions to try and get everything consolidated in one area and that’s a depot. Some people want the blue box approach; it’s something we have to wrestle with.”
He asked if there were any communities where MMBC gave money to a depot to offset the costs of running it. Walker replied no, as the depot model was based on a part time model. They get paid for the part time costs of each material and the education material on a per household basis. She said this was explained to communities which already had depots.
Feldhoff expressed he had never been told this, the program was geared towards curbside pick-up. The reply was Kitimat did not have a full scale recycling depot.
Feldhoff wanted to know if anyone was given a centralized depot, because in Kitimat, recycling takes place at multiple depots. He was told with the multiple programs coming online, everything has been piecemealed together. Walker suggested industries will be creating eco depots. There have been some attempts at a one stop shop.
Councillor Larry Walker asked Maura Walker if recycling would ever be profitable. She replied it was a matter of global commodities. Recyclables are resources. If Canada’s landfills were held to higher standards, the costs might shift.
Mayor Phil Germuth asked if there was a model for curbside recycling for a community the size of Kitimat or if it was worth it for everyone to take their recycling to a depot. Walker replied Curbside recycling would get better results than depot based recycling, because people tend to do the option that is easiest.
She said under the product stewardship model, if Council could get a hold of the funding, it would reduce the cost. However, under MMBC, they pay to come and get it, transport it and recycle it, and they are providing incentives. Some communities have alternated their pick up weeks for garbage and recycling to avoid doubling their transportation costs.
“There are a range of different models. It’s really a conversation of: ‘What’s the level of convenience, what is the level people are willing to pay for,’ and then ‘incentify’ the level that you want,” said Walker.
Councillor Rob Goffinet asked what the buy in from other municipalities has been. Walker said it was very high and the ones she talks to say it was good. She said there has not been a lot of heavy handedness around contamination levels. Some communities are even making money which they are using to start other programs.
Councillor Mary Murphy stated Council was told they are keeping a handle on the landfill and the workers go through the garbage before it goes in there. There are also groups who recycle and repair things in the community.
Council thanked Walker for her presentation and proposed a workshop in the future with all of the stakeholders.