City council at crossroads for curbside recycling

Whitehorse city council will test whether there is enough interest in pursuing a curbside recycling program at tonight’s meeting.

Whitehorse city council will test whether there is enough interest in pursuing a curbside recycling program at tonight’s meeting.

A majority vote in support of the program, which is estimated to cost Whitehorse ratepayers about $15 a month, would direct administration to issue a request for proposal to determine its viability.

“My hope is that we don’t crush this right now,” said Mayor Dan Curtis.

“We need to wait and hear back from the private sector to determine the details of the program and how much it’ll cost. Then, we can discuss it, open it to the public and move forward.”

The idea of rolling out a citywide curbside recycling program has been in the works since November 2014, when it was first revealed during a city council meeting.

The city’s program would serve residents living within the “urban containment boundary,” which includes subdivisions such as Granger and Whistle Bend but excludes country residential neighbourhoods.

The monthly fee would cover both collection and processing of recyclables.

As it stands, Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling offers curbside pick-up of all household recyclables every two weeks for $20 a month.

They pick up recycling in every Whitehorse neighbourhood, which is then brought to Raven Recycling and processed.

At least week’s meeting, Councillor Samson Hartland questioned the need to introduce a new program if the private sector was already offering it.

“I become concerned whenever the City looks to do something that the private sector is already doing effectively,” he said.

And Coun. Dan Boyd said that if the City went ahead with the program, Blue Bin Recycling would effectively go out of business.

Curtis said the service offered by the Blue Bin Society, of which he is a customer, is important but it only affects a small portion of Whitehorse residents.

The company has a clientele of about 800 customers but that’s just “one small piece,” he said.

“We want them to have a clientele of 5,800 customers,” Curtis said, referring to the number of households that would be paying for the city’s service.

“But if the private sector comes back to us and says it’ll cost $30 a month, well that’s just too much. We’ll have to come up with another path.”

That might mean increasing the number of diversion credits provided to local processors such as Raven Recycling and P&M Recycling.

It costs about $300 a tonne to process and ship out recyclables, and Raven brings in $150 a tonne in diversion credits from the Yukon government and the City combined.

Revenue from the sale of materials, low since commodity prices crashed in 2008, do not come close to making up the difference.

Raven had to close its public drop off in 2014 because it couldn’t continue to pay for Whitehorse citizens to recycle their non-refundable materials.

“This situation has been temporarily solved through a new diversion credit agreement between the processors and the Yukon government,” said Raven’s executive director Joy Snyder in a letter to the News last week.

“The agreement is a stop gap measure until new systems are put in place. If our community truly wants to recycle and divert waste from the landfill, I believe it is time to put a system in place.”

Curtis said the City is at a point where it cannot continue to increase diversion credits.

“The more waste we create the more credits we need,” he said.

“We just don’t have enough resources to help the processors.”

A survey in early 2015 revealed Whitehorse residents were on the fence when it came to supporting a curbside recycling program.

The city heard from 1,900 residents at the time, 69 per cent of whom said a curbside recycling program would make it easier for them to recycle.

But only 52 per cent of respondents said they were willing to pay a fee to cover the costs of recycling.

The survey also revealed that only 11 per cent of residents would like the city to stick with the status quo.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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