Whitehorse’s recycling companies want the city to increase the amount of money it pays to help cover the cost of recycling.
Joy Snyder, executive director of Raven Recycling, appeared as a delegate at the Feb. 18 standing committees meeting to ask council to consider raising the cap for what it pays in diversion incentives from $150,000 to $250,000.
Snyder – who spoke not only for her organization but rival company P&M Recycling – said that presently, the city pays companies such as her own a fee of $75 for every tonne of recycling they divert from the city landfill, up to a maximum 2,000 tonnes ($150,000).
Snyder said companies divert more tonnage beyond the cap. She estimated that what they divert works out to a payment of only $45 per tonne. Bringing the payment cap up to $250,000 (3,300 tonnes) would allow them to make the intended $75 per tonne, because it would be more in keeping with what they actually divert beyond the cap.
The present cap does not take into account fluctuating commodity prices, the cost of living or the diversion goals of the city, Snyder said. Although the territorial and municipal government are working together to create a new system for recycling programs, in the meantime an increase is necessary, she said, to support the recycling system.
Moreover, it costs money to handle recycling, said Snyder, adding that they “have to collect the stuff, sort it, bail it up and ship it.”
The request to increase the cap to $250,000 is “reasonable” said Byrna Cable, environmental coordinator for the city, adding that, given what the recyclers do actually produce, the cap at its current amount actually acts as a “financial disincentive.”
The territorial government also puts in $650,000 in diversion caps, for a total of $800,000 in waste diversion incentives, Cable said.
Recycling is “typically” a municipal concern in Outside communities, said Cable, but due to the “history” of recycling in the Yukon, that has not been the case in Whitehorse.
When Raven Recycling opened up in 1992, there was a robust business to be made in refundable recyclables, such as aluminium cans and tetra pack boxes. A non-profit with an environmental mandate, Raven simply took the profits from its refundables and other money-making services and put it towards the collection of all recyclables, including those which are non-refundable and don’t really make money for the organization, Cable said.
As time went on, however, the amount of non-refundable recycling increased as the city’s population – and waste generation – grew, even as the profit from returnables stagnated, Cable said.
“It’s very unusual for municipalities to only give this tiny amount (of money),” Cable said.
“We just didn’t take that path, and now we’re still here.”
All the funding available for the diversion incentive – as well as programs related to things like composting and other waste management initiatives – comes from tipping fees at the dump, said Cable. In order to increase the cap to $250,000, tipping fees would have to increase by about $7, a “not insignificant amount,” she noted.
“At present, the public pays $150,000 of what is millions of dollars in services (from recycling companies),” said Cable.
“The public has never really paid for recycling (in Whitehorse).”
No meetings or immediate action are planned to raise the cap, Geoff Quinsey, manager of waste and water services for the city told the News, although he noted that the program is “super-important” to the city, especially in keeping with landfill diversion goals.
The city is currently trying to work towards diverting 50 per cent of its waste from landfill, with a goal of zero waste by 2040.
Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@Yukon-news.com