Council considers garbage pickup

Agrees that public would have to approve any changes before final decision.

The one thing Maple Ridge councillors agree on is that residents will get an opportunity to approve a municipally administered garbage collection system to replace the existing user-choice one.

But council hasn’t determined how that discussion will take shape.

Maple Ridge is unique in the Lower Mainland for its system, which sees four private contractors providing garbage pickup, at rates and terms agreed upon by the homeowner and the business.

The average cost is about $288 per household per year, according to a report by city hall.

Other options would be a contracted-out system administered by the city, or an in-house system where the city purchases garbage trucks and hires staff.

Coun. Corisa Bell said members of the public are asking for a city-administered system, and said the issue should not wait until the next election, when it could be put to referendum, as some of her council colleagues suggest.

The handling of organics in the waste stream highlights the lack of consistency in the present system.

Bell noted not all of the city’s service providers are handling organic waste, but since Jan. 15  Metro has put a ban on organics in the waste steam.

By June, companies will be charged a 50 per cent tipping fee surcharge on all loads containing organics dumped at the Metro Vancouver transfer station.

These charges will be the responsibility of private haulers.

The discussion prompted lively debate among councillors.

Coun. Craig Spiers argued that he hauls his own garbage to the transfer station, and a mandatory city-wide collection system would be “the biggest tax increase I’ve ever had.”

He asked staff to provide the number of people who don’t contract a garbage handler, as part of the information council should consider.

Mayor Nicole Read countered that staff would also then need to provide stats for the amount of illegal dumping, done by those who don’t contract garbage pickup.

“That’s a facetious argument,” said Spiers, who also called moving away from a user-choice system “a step back.”

Coun. Bob Masse said everyone should be on the same system, and everyone paying, just as they can’t opt out of paying for the public library or the Leisure Centre.

Coun. Gordon Robson spoke against a city-administered plan, calling it a “Russian system.”

“Get serious,” Masse told him.

“I am serious,” said Robson. “The whole thing to me is just ludicrous.”

Robson said he spent three years in the business, and that the administration costs would he high.

“You think you get complaints at the [city] hall now …” he warned.

Bell proposed a public hearing process rather than a public vote, on a new system.

Coun. Tyler Shymkiw said he would support a full city-wide referendum.

Robson said the decision should be made by mail-in ballot, including only those who would pay for the new service.

The report from staff looked at neighbouring municipalities. The City of Coquitlam recently contracted garbage and organics collection, implementing a program in 2014. Coquitlam gets bi-weekly garbage collection, weekly organics collection a large-item pickup (appliances and mattresses) four times per year and other services for $287 per year.

Port Moody provides a similar level service with an in-house system that costs $338 per year.

Read said the city should also be looking at anaerobic digesters and other solutions for organic waste.

“We’re looking to other municipalities for an example …” she said. “We should be leading.”

Council asked for a report detailing more exact cost estimates, the impact of the new system on the Recycling Society, options for green waste, and options for public consultation.