City of Abbotsford explores trash options

Alternatives sought to Metro-owned transfer station

The Matsqui Transfer Station

The Matsqui Transfer Station

Trash disposal is worth millions, and the city is looking to save dollars as the current contract with Metro is up for bidding two years from now.

Staff are looking for alternatives to the Matsqui Transfer Station, a Metro Vancouver-owned facility that processes and ships 51,000 tonnes of garbage a year to the Cache Creek landfill.

The current deal with Metro is expected to expire in 2015 and a request for proposals has been issued.

City manager Frank Pizzuto said he expects landfill costs will increase significantly in the near future. Metro is planning to increase tipping fees by $10 to $30 per tonne each year until 2015.

Abbotsford spent $1.2 million in 2011 on tipping fees.

There are two private waste management services in Abbotsford – BFI Canada, located at 34321 Industrial Way, and First Class Waste Services at 1454 Riverside Rd., both in the Huntingdon industrial area.

The companies are already taking business away from Metro, and Pizzuto said either could bid. He also noted that Metro may also rebid.

Another option could involve a company purchasing the Matsqui Transfer Station from Metro.

The city’s garbage would likely continue to be sent to Cache Creek, or to a landfill site in the U.S., depending on the bidder.

Metro’s new waste plan includes using waste-to-energy technology to incinerate garbage. The idea has been controversial, especially in the Fraser Valley where many are concerned about how a major new incineration plant would impact the local airshed.

“Certainly our council has openly said that they are opposed to the waste-to-energy and so, if they moved in that direction, certainly Abbotsford would probably consider not being part of that environment,” said Pizzuto.

However, he clarified the decision to request proposals is primarily a financial one.

Tracy Kyle, the city’s director of water and solid waste, said the tipping fee last year was $92 per tonne, and went up to $108.45 per tonne this year.

The increased fees this year could result in costs going up another $1 million, but some of that will be offset by a reduction in the amount of curbside waste collected, due to increased recycling and composting.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said the city isn’t saying it plans to leave Metro’s waste system, rather just keep options open.

“This is planning ahead before it’s a panic. We have to have options for what we can do.”

While a new local transfer station is a possibility, Banman said what is not on the table is creating a landfill site in Abbotsford.

“That is not going to happen. There is nowhere in Abbotsford to put it.”

Abbotsford’s decision to look at other options is the latest in a series of blows to Metro’s waste plan.

Commercial waste haulers are increasingly trucking the garbage they collect to private landfills outside Metro Vancouver to avoid high tipping fees and disposal bans that are enforced by the regional district.

The developing trend has alarmed Metro Vancouver staff and politicians because every load of garbage that leaves the region means less money is collected in tipping fees to support the fixed costs of the waste management and recycling system, forcing those fees to climb higher for everyone else.

So far, it’s estimated 50,000 tonnes of waste per year – five per cent of the waste stream – has shifted to private out-of-region facilities, resulting in a loss of $5 million per year in tipping fee revenue for Metro. It’s mainly coming from businesses, industry and multi-family residential buildings served by private haulers.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who chairs Metro’s Zero Waste Committee, said the fear is the outward migration of garbage will accelerate.

“The reduction could grow exponentially and then you’ve got a real issue,” he said.

“The trend could be a very difficult one if we don’t address the situation. If you’re taking waste out of the waste stream that means the cost for those who remain is going to increase.”

Brodie said a big chunk of the 50,000 tonnes of outbound garbage is believed to go to one of Abbotsford’s private transfer stations, where it’s shipped by rail to a U.S. landfill run by Rabanco near the Washington-Oregon border.

– with files from Jeff Nagel