Curbside recycling plans under criticism

Some Whitehorse city councillors still aren't sold on a proposed curbside recycling program.

Some Whitehorse city councillors still aren’t sold on a proposed curbside recycling program.

Councillors Samson Hartland, Dan Boyd and Betty Irwin voiced their concerns at Monday evening’s meeting about the new service, which council will vote on next week.

City officials estimate the program will cost Whitehorse ratepayers about $15 a month, which covers both collection and processing of recyclables.

The fee will show up on residents’ utility bills under waste management.

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

Hartland was referring to Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling, which offers curbside pick-up of all household recyclables every two weeks for $20 a month. Created in 2012, it originally serviced customers in Riverdale. Today, it picks up recycling in every Whitehorse neighbourhood, which is then brought to Raven Recycling and processed.

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.

Boyd pointed out that if the City goes ahead with the program, Blue Bin Recycling would effectively go out of business.

Shannon Clohosey, the city’s environmental sustainability manager, said that was true, unless the company put in a bid and won the contract for the service.

“If council chooses to proceed with this program there will be an impact on the waste industry,” Clohosey told members of council on Monday evening.

“However, I think there are many opportunities that may arise out of this program. That particular company has expressed an interest in responding to the request for proposal.

“There may still be a future for that company.”

The new curbside recycling service excludes the collection of both Styrofoam and glass, Clohosey added.

That’s because there were concerns about Styrofoam flying away and creating litter. Glass was a bigger concern because of safety issues for staff.

“Currently there is not a good economical source for recycling glass,” Clohosey said.

The Blue Bin Society, on the other hand, picks up both Styrofoam and glass.

In June, the City announced that waste diversion at the landfill was up to 33 per cent. It planned on diverting at least 50 per cent of waste from the landfill by the end of 2015.

But only 10 per cent of the waste at the landfill comes from residential homes, it was revealed at Monday’s meeting.

The rest comes from construction and commercial businesses.

“We’re asking the 5,800 households to cover for the other sector, which is filling up 90 per cent of the landfill,” Boyd said.

“What about the commercial sector?”

In the request for proposal, the City is responsible for the purchase of the curbside carts and program education, estimated to cost about $565,000.

The federal gas tax could be used to fund the cost of the carts, Clohosey wrote in a report to city council, but the contractor would be on the hook for the cost of purchasing new vehicles.

Coun. Irwin said she didn’t have a problem with people taking responsibility for the waste they generate.

But she did have one with mandating additional fees to families that may not be able to afford them.

“When you impose a user fee, you’re impacting low-income people a lot more than high-income people,” she said.

“This is a big amount to them and I have a big problem with this. We really have to target the big people (construction industry) in this.

“What we’re doing by targeting this small percentage of residents (10 per cent who fill up the landfill) is like shooting sparrows with an anti-aircraft gun. You’ll get them but you’re not looking at the big picture.”

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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