The amount of garbage being trucked out of Metro Vancouver is set to almost double this year from what it was only two years ago, as haulers step up their efforts to avoid expensive local disposal fees.
That could mean $10-million in lost fees and that a lot of garbage that could be recycled is instead being shipped to a landfill in the United States, say Metro Vancouver officials.
They also say the trend of garbage going out of region – from 50,000 tons in 2012 to an expected 100,000 tons by the end of this year – will continue to accelerate if the province doesn't approve a new bylaw prohibiting that kind of leakage.
"It's so important because, if it isn't [approved], then other companies won't have any choice but to do the same as these companies [who are shipping waste out of the region]," said Paul Henderson, Metro Vancouver's manager for solid-waste services.
Port Coquitlam mayor Greg Moore, head of the region's zero-waste committee, suggests the problem could set the region back.
"We're leading the country now with our diversion rates [rates of keeping garbage out of landfills and into the hands of recyclers] for a large metro area," said Mr. Moore. But that's because the region has been able to enforce strict policies so far. That can't continue if the trend of shipping garbage out of the region keeps accelerating.
The reported spike is the latest development in a bitter fight over garbage that has businesses and politicians in different B.C. regions disagreeing about how to manage it.
Metro Vancouver and nine other regional districts are supporting the idea of making it illegal for garbage haulers to take waste out of their regions. Metro Vancouver is the first region in B.C. to propose an actual bylaw on this – Bylaw 280 – and only the second metropolitan area in Canada, after Halifax, that would have a bylaw like that on the books.
Politicians and bureaucrats from those B.C. regional districts argue that it's impossible to enforce any real efforts at recycling if companies can just avoid either bans on certain items in the garbage or high disposal fees (meant to encourage recycling) by shipping garbage out of the region.
Although garbage from single-family homes is largely separated and recycled now in almost every Metro municipality, recycling efforts in multifamily complexes and businesses are still all over the map.
Metro is planning to bring in a ban next year on putting organics into garbage going to local landfills, in order to put pressure on those categories – or more realistically, on the companies picking up their garbage – to recycle more.
But the Fraser Valley Regional District, where haulers from Vancouver are taking their garbage in order to put it on trains to a U.S. facility, says the new bylaw is just an effort to ensure there's lots of material for the incinerator that Metro Vancouver is planning to build.
Businesses are also at odds. Local recycling companies are supporting Metro Vancouver's proposed bylaw, saying it drives more material toward their businesses.
But B.C. chambers of commerce are opposing the ban, arguing it's just an effort to build a monopoly in Metro Vancouver, charge ever-higher fees, and create a market for the future incinerator.
Mr. Moore said that kind of opposition is largely the result of intensive lobbying by two local waste companies.
"There are a couple of waste haulers that want to maintain the current system because they recognize their massive profits are being eroded by having to comply with the current bylaw."
At the moment, Vancouver charges $108 a ton to dump garbage into its landfill or incinerator. In comparison, estimate Metro officials, it costs a hauler only $70 a ton to truck waste to Abbotsford and then put it on a train to the Rabanco landfill in the United States.