Metro Vancouver waste flow plan causes concerns for Abbotsford

Local representatives fear plan is being used to justify an incinerator

Metro Vancouver’s plan to block waste from leaving the region was approved by its zero waste committee on Thursday, leaving the controversial plan – which critics believe is being used to justify a new garbage incinerator – a step closer to becoming reality.

The plan was previously approved without debate by Metro Vancouver on Sept. 27.

Coun. Patricia Ross said she was surprised the initiative went through without an uproar.

“It’s so controversial and it’s had so much opposition… I thought there would be some discussion, and there was not a whisper of debate.”

The proposal would require all garbage to go to regional facilities, blocking shipments to Abbotsford’s private transfer stations where tipping fees are lower and Metro bans on dumping recyclables don’t apply.

Representatives from the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) have repeatedly spoken against the initiative and the proposal for an estimated $500-million incinerator that could potentially be located in the Lower Mainland, creating the potential of toxic pollutants being blown up the Valley.

The proposal will go back to Metro for final approval on Oct. 11 before being sent to the ministry of the environment for consideration.

“It seems they want to be rubber-stamping this as soon as possible,” said Ross.

Metro planners say a trickle of waste now being trucked out of region threatens to turn into a flood, taking revenue from tipping fees that fund the garbage and recycling system out of the region. Metro Vancouver states about 50,000 tonnes of garbage left the region in 2012 and about 70,000 in 2013. Metro Vancouver estimates it loses about $7 million per year in tipping fees as garbage haulers dump waste at the less-expensive Abbotsford private transfer stations.

Paul Henderson, manager of solid waste at Metro Vancouver, said those numbers are estimates, but it is assumed much is going into Abbotsford. The figures represent about five to seven per cent of the total waste, but Henderson said they are seeing an increase in waste bypassing the regional system as other garbage haulers could be deciding to bring trash to Abbotsford.

FVRD directors have also repeatedly expressed concerns that waste control impacts competition by not allowing haulers to dump where the prices are lower.

“They are creating a monopoly so they can charge whatever they want,” said Ross.

The current tipping fee rate in Metro Vancouver is $107 per tonne, but is projected to be $158 per tonne by 2018. Metro Vancouver states that this is driven by a reduced quantity of garbage due to higher diversion, as rates must be raised in order to cover capital and costs.

Metro has also said allowing waste to leave the region limits their control, and could mean recyclables and other materials end up in landfills. But Ross said the FVRD and Metro should be willing to work together create strict rules for all landfills and increasing diversion, instead of implemented waste flow management.

Abbotsford currently brings its waste to the Mastqui transfer station – a part of the Metro Vancouver system. City manager George Murray said this is because it was the most cost-effective option, but the issue is currently under review. He said should it become financially prohibitive, Abbotsford would seek to bring its garbage elsewhere, possibly within the Fraser Valley Regional District.

He added that currently Abbotsford is working towards diversion through composting and recycling initiatives, as “we think that is the most cost-effective way to approach waste.”