The Town of Gibsons has moved closer to implementing a curbside pick-up program for organic waste after councillors voted at their Dec.19 regular meeting to have staff negotiate a one-year contract for weekly curbside residential organics collection with Grayco Ventures (their current garbage collection contractor).
Councillors passed the motion after considerable discussion at both the committee of the whole and regular council meetings on Dec.19. Opinion was divided over a number of details, most importantly whether the curbside pick-up program should be universal, or whether residents who already compost their organic waste should be allowed to opt out and not pay the fee – and in the end, council agreed to let people opt out.
The current cost of garbage collection is $156 per residence. If initial set-up costs for the organics program were all paid in the first year, households would pay an additional $151.55 in year one, and $88.30 in subsequent years.
The overall cost would be offset somewhat if the Town renegotiates their contract with Grayco to reduce garbage pick-up from weekly to every other week. Director of Finance Ian Poole estimated the cost of bi-weekly garbage pick-up at about $115 per year per residence.
Councillor Silas White said that he could only support the organics program if residents were able to opt out.
“This kind of compromise is probably what we need to get full community buy-in for this project. We’re likely to get some very vocal opposition to a universal curbside collection program from people who are the most committed people in our community to diverting organics, ironically,” said White.
However, Mayor Wayne Rowe said that the logistics of allowing some households to opt out would be “an administrative nightmare” for Town staff.
“We have to pay service provider money regardless of how many people actually use the service,” said Rowe. “If someone opts out, the $150 still has to be paid by somebody.”
Rowe said that while he wanted to acknowledge residents who are conscientious composters and recyclers, he felt the program must be universal, the same as other town services.
Other details that council grappled with were whether the program’s set-up costs should be amortized over several years, and how the Town would enforce a ban on putting organic waste into the regular garbage.
(A further question raised at the SCRD on Dec. 21, was whether people might opt out of Gibsons collection, and then take their organics to an SCRD drop-off depot. One is slated for the Gibsons area in 2018.)
Gibsons sent out a request for proposals for organics diversion several months ago and received a proposal from Grayco. In October, representatives of Grayco, EcoSafe Zerowaste, and Salish Soils gave a presentation to council on the proposed collection program, similar to one that was piloted in Davis Bay in 2015.
Residents would separate their organics (including fruit and vegetable scraps, bread, meat, and bones) into a special container, which would be collected at the curb and checked for non-organic contaminants.
The vote on organics diversion was three to one with Mayor Wayne Rowe opposed. Councillor Charlene SanJenko was absent.
The organics diversion contract will come back to council for approval.