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Whitehorse curbside recycling program could be crushed

City administration is recommending Whitehorse cancel its plans for a curbside recycling program.

City administration is recommending Whitehorse cancel its plans for a curbside recycling program.

The cost of city-wide pick-up would bump the utility fee homes already pay for trash and organics pick-up from $11 to $28 a month, according to a report presented to city council Monday.

The $17 increase is higher than the $15 bump council had estimated when it looked into the issue in January.

City manager Christine Smith called the bump a “significant deviation from the estimate” in an interview with the News yesterday.

“All we’re saying is that it’s a significant difference. The decision to say that it’s too costly, that’s up to council. We don’t say it’s too costly, what we say is that it’s very different.”

Council will vote next week whether to award the contract for the program.

The administrative paperwork and budget changes needed to run curbside recycling also haven’t happened yet, council heard.

Council approved only a four per cent increase in utility fees for 2017, Smith told councillors.

If council decides to move ahead it would have to amend the fees and charges bylaw to allow for an increase. It would also have to amend the capital budget to earmark an extra $500,000 to buy recycling carts. That could come from gas tax money or general reserves, the report says.

The waste management bylaw and diversion credit policy would also have to change.

There’s also a request for $50,000 in the 2017 budget to implement the program and $15,000 for an education component.

Smith said new programs are often left in a catch-22. Do you make the required changes based on estimates of how much things are going to cost or do you wait for the proposals to come in and then consider the changes?

It’s unclear what cancelling the program would mean for the city’s recyclers.

Recycling costs money. Around 10 per cent of the volume of recyclables in the city is refundable, Shannon Clohosey, acting director of development services, told council. That means processors get some money from Yukon’s recycling fund to cover those costs.

The $17 increase would be for the costs of the other 90 per cent of non-refundable material that doesn’t have a dedicated funding source, she said.

Aside from the recycling fund, processors get diversion credits from both the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government to cover some of the costs.

The city’s budget for diversion credits is $150,000 a year.

It’s meant to pay about $75 a tonne for recyclables, Clohosey said.

A report on recycling in the city estimated processors need about $400 a tonne to fully cover the cost to recycle, she said.

Two local companies bid for the city contract, Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling and General Waste Management.

If the program happens, General Waste Management can perform the service, the administrative report says.

Whitehorse’s Raven Recycling was a subcontractor on both of the contract bids to process the recyclables.

Representatives for the often cash-strapped non-profit were clearly hoping for a different answer at Monday’s meeting.

“We have been looking forward to this as a means to continue our business as it stands today,” said board president Jacqueline Bedard.

“If this tender isn’t accepted we will need to look at what the future holds for us and it’s unlikely it will continue to look like it does today.”

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

It would cover everyone who is already paying for waste and organics collection. That means multi-unit buildings would also be excluded.

Since 2012, Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling has been offering curbside pick-up of household recyclables every two weeks for $20 a month. Residents choose to pay for the service and the company has about 800 customers.

The city’s mandatory program would cover nearly 6,000 households.

“We are ready and willing to continue the residential service for many years, while also working to increase recycling and waste diversion from other sectors in Whitehorse,” Whitehorse Blue Bin Recycling general manager Taylor Tiefenbach said in a statement.

Contact Ashley Joannou at