Landfill fee decision spurs debate
By Chad Ingram
Published March 16, 2017
It remains unclear what Minden Hills council will do regarding a staff recommendation to institute a flat fee for loads of waste from compactor trucks.
In February, a report from environmental and property operations manager Ivan Ingram suggested changing the fee for waste from compactor trucks to $35 per cubic yard.
While the fee for a sorted cubic yard of waste has been $25, it doubles to $50 per cubic yard for unsorted waste – a load that is considered “contaminated.”
Under Minden Hills regulations, a “contaminated” load is one that consists of at least six per cent of recyclable material.
There have been disputes between landfill attendants and compactor drivers over whether or not loads are contaminated and the flat fee concept is being introduced, at least in part, to limit such disputes.
During a Feb. 23 public meeting on the proposed change, council heard from Brigitte Gall, the former Minden Hills councillors who now works as a consultant for Highlands Environmental, which provides landfill attendant services at Minden Hills’ landfill sites.
“We want that landfill to last as long as it can and that’s why we ask everyone to do the right thing,” Gall said, adding that the proposed change would really just benefit one company and that it seemed like ratepayers would essentially be giving that company a tax subsidy.
At a March 9 committee of the whole meeting, Ingram showed council a series of photographs of compactor truck loads to demonstrate how subjective and difficult it is to determine whether a load is comprised of six per cent or more of recyclable material.
“I’m not going to get into a bin of items and sort through it,” Ingram said, adding a compactor truck full of waste contains about 17,000 items. “It’s inclusive as to what’s recyclable in that load, in my opinion.”
Ingram said he’s also contacted the Ministry of Environment about the issue.
“They feel this is an inside problem, it’s not an issue [for the ministry],” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with the way we’re operating. Could we do better? Absolutely, we could do better. Part of it is education.”
At least one member of council has a huge problem with what Ingram is suggesting.
“I am an adamant recycler,” said Councillor Jean Neville. “I think there is a major problem at the Scotch Line landfill. All that plastic is there forever. It’s not going anywhere.”
Ingram emphasized attendants do their best to keep recyclable material out of the ground.
“The attendants are constantly looking,” he said. “It’s a busy site.”
Neville responded that the township should be charging more, not less, for companies who are not ensuring their waste is properly sorted.
“We have to do some major education if the businesses are not sorting, because they should be sorting,” she said. “It’s 2017. We should be charging people more and more and more and force them to start recycling properly.”
Both Ingram and chief administrative officer/treasurer Lorrie Blanchard contended the change would not equate to subsidizing compaction companies.
“It’s very complicated, very challenging, we’re not saying that it isn’t,” Blanchard said. “What you have to look at is revenues and expenditures.”
In a complex financial breakdown, Blanchard analyzed the amount the township pays for bulldozer and chipping services at the landfill versus the fees the township charges for various types of waste.
The analysis was done based on processing 10 cubic yards of material and showed that while processing some forms of waste yields revenue for the township, processing others actually costs the township more than depositors pay to leave the waste behind.
Construction waste, not compaction loads, is the most expensive to deal with.
“In summary, it costs the township approximately $100.03 to address 10 cubic yards of material, and $613.28 for the same amount of construction waste,” the staff report read, indicating that sorted construction waste is basically being subsidized by $210 per every 10 cubic yards.
“We’re actually subsidizing sorted construction waste, which is what we’re trying to point out here,” Blanchard told councillors.
She added that in cases of blatantly contaminated loads, attendants could still charge the $50 per cubic yard fee.
“If the load comes in severely contaminated, obviously that would be an issue and they’d be charged for that,” Blanchard said.
“This is far more complicated that it looks on the surface,” said Reeve Brent Devolin, adding that with new waste legislation coming down the chute from the province’s, there could be some serious changes in store for the handling of waste in the near future.
With two members of council absent from the meeting, councillors decided to defer a decision on the issue until a later meeting.