Raven Recycling mulls charging fees at its drop off facility

The days of being able to make a free trip to Raven Recycling may soon be numbered. That's because the non-profit is debating whether to start charging a tipping fee for recyclables people drop off.

The days of being able to make a free trip to Raven Recycling may soon be numbered.

That’s because the non-profit is debating whether to start charging a tipping fee for recyclables people drop off.

“Our goal is to have a gate and scale for everything that comes into our yard,” said executive director Joy Snyder.

As it stands, Raven receives diversion credits from both the City and Yukon government to offset the cost of processing and shipping out recyclables.

Even at $150 per tonne, the credits only subsidize about half of the cost to ship that waste out. That’s not enough, Snyder said, to keep the company afloat.

In the past, Snyder has stated that a short-term solution would be for governments to double diversion credits to allow Raven to cover its costs.

Last year, the City committed over $200,000 in diversion credits while the Yukon government kicked in $641,000. But despite the additional funds, Snyder says it’s not a sustainable system.

Yukon government’s diversion credits with local processors expired last month. But talks are underway about renewing those agreements for 2016, according to Dwayne Muckosky, Yukon’s director of community operations and programs. Diversion credits for 2015 have been extended until March 31 this year, he added.

But what happens after that to support recycling processors is still up in the air.

Snyder is supportive of Whitehorse city council’s decision on Monday to move ahead with issuing a request for proposals for a curbside recycling program.

The city’s proposed program would charge 5,800 Whitehorse ratepayers about $15 a month for both collection and processing of recyclables.

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

It remains unclear how much money would be passed on to Raven, however, if the program is implemented and Raven is part of the winning bid.

Snyder said she wasn’t sure whether Raven would be submitting a joint bid for the contract along with Whitehorse Blue Bin Society, the company that already offers curbside pick-up of all household recyclables every two weeks for $20 a month. But she did say a curbside recycling program would provide a system to pay for non-refundables.

“The RFP has not been released, so until we see it, we won’t know how to approach it,” Snyder said.

“There are a number of haulers in town and two processors and we are interested in partnerships so we’ll see how it plays out.”

The curbside recycling program would pay for itself, Snyder said, meaning it would cover the cost of processing and shipping out the material the hauler brings in.

But it wouldn’t cover other materials that are recycled at the facility. Introducing a tipping fee would help offset that cost, Snyder said.

For example, the City has increased its tipping fee for cardboard at the landfill. Snyder said Raven could start charging its own fee for cardboard if people start bringing it to the facility.

Across the country, recycling services are typically either managed by the municipal government or contracted out.

Whitehorse, where independent businesses and non-profits shoulder the responsibility, is the exception, Snyder said.

In the Yukon, the territorial government has been working on updating its beverage container regulations for years.

Consumers pay a refundable deposit and a recycling fee on purchases of designated beverage containers. When they return the empty beverage containers to a recycling depot, they receive the refundable deposit.

The recycling fee goes to the Yukon government, which uses the funds to pay for handling, processing and transportation fees for the empty containers.

“In a perfect world the Yukon government would have extended producer responsibility for everything,” Snyder said, “which is what they’re doing in B.C. and Alberta.”

“We don’t have that here, and the government isn’t interested in doing that. If the government doesn’t do that then the burden falls to the municipalities.”

Snyder said she’d like to see beverage container regulations extended to all containers.

In Sept. 2014, the government proposed changes to its beverage container regulations. Under the proposed rules, the recycling fee for all beverage containers less than a litre would go up to 15 cents from 10. The refund would remain five cents. Containers for dairy and dairy alternatives would be included for the first time.

Some things, like computers, printers, stereos, microwaves and vacuums, will have new fees attached to them as part of the proposed new rules.

Adding more materials and increasing deposit fees through the new regulations will increase the volume of material that is covered by a stable and viable revenue source.

Muckosky said there still isn’t a timeline for when those changes will be made.

“Yukon government is progressing through its review of the regulations, but unfortunately we can’t commit to a specific timeline, other than to say we expect to get through this in the coming months,” he said.

The changes are a long time coming. The beverage container rules haven’t been updated since 1992, except to add Tetra Paks to the regime 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, discussions with the Association of Yukon Communities on a territory-wide solution for managing solid waste are moving along, Muckosky said. The AYC has submitted a draft proposal to the government, which identified challenges in Yukon’s communities.

Muckosky said he wasn’t at liberty to discuss the report but said the government has replied and is was waiting on the association to propose its next steps.

Whitehorse city council had a 50 per cent diversion goal for 2015 but did not meet it. By July 2015, the City’s waste diversion rate was about 33 per cent.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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