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Solid waste dominates SCRD budget talks

Solid waste dominates SCRD budget talks

Debate on the current and future costs of dealing with garbage and recyclables were major contributors to over 10 hours of round two 2021 budget discussions by the SCRD board. Committee meetings to complete its draft 2021 financial plan lasted from 9:30am to after 3pm on March 4 and 5.
Operating hours at the region’s garbage receiving facilities are to be adjusted in 2021. This change and increased monitoring of waste being received will require the SCRD to add one half-time position to landfill staffing. This will increase the annual base budget by $35,000.
The proposal is to keep the Sechelt Landfill open 9am to 5pm every day except Mondays. The Pender Harbour Transfer Station is to be open 9am to 5pm Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays throughout the year. Between May and September, the Pender facility will also be open Sundays. There is no change to openings at either facility on statutory holidays. They will be open for Victoria Day, Canada Day and BC Day and closed other holiday dates.
The SCRD is also set to go ahead with a feasibility study of using a biocover in its Sechelt landfill closure plan, at the cost of $150,000. As part of this work, there will be an investigation of whether biosolids from Sechelt’s Dusty Road septage receiving facility can be used for this purpose. This will include discussions with Sechelt regarding cost-sharing for disposing of the biosolids as part of the landfill closure should the use of that product be allowed by the Province. This could be a “win-win” for the region and Sechelt. Sechelt is looking at the cost of about $500,000 in 2021 and in 2024 to get rid of the biosolids from Dusty Road. Costs could be significantly reduced if those products could be used in the work required of the SCRD to close the landfill.
Delay of the Pender Harbour Transfer Station food waste drop-off program from mid-year 2021 to a future year is being recommended. This was the result of debate on whether waste diversion projects, important to extending the life of the regional landfill, should be funded through tipping fees or taxation. With no consensus on the committee about how to fund the north area food waste drop-off, a further report on the issue was requested later this year.
Tipping fees are a “user-pay” system. When it comes to encouraging residents to remove recyclables from their garbage, charging additional fees to dispose of the diverted materials is viewed by some as a disincentive to investing the time in recycling efforts.
Using taxation to fund recycling programs spreads the costs over all property owners, whether they use the service or not. As the costs incurred to operate the landfill are funded by fees and taxation, it can be argued that all taxpayers benefit when landfill costs are kept lower by diverting waste. Funding waste diversion through taxation also “hides” the costs of such programs by rolling them into the annual tax bill rather than charging them at the point of use.
Other SCRD waste diversion projects were also deferred from 2021. Re-diversion of waste from Sechelt landfill to an off-coast disposal facility, planned for to extend the useful life of that site, is not to be done this year. Staff advised that the project was not required, given that current efforts to recycle more have led to lower volumes of garbage being disposed of at the site.
The committee recommended against adding book recycling at the Sechelt and Pender waste receiving sites in 2021. The decision was to stay with having the Gibsons Recycling Depot the sole option for these products.
While saving money with decisions related to waste diversion, a new emergency expenditure of $15,000 for a propane generator at Sechelt landfill is being added to the 2021 budget. That site is not on the electrical grid, and the solar system that provided power to operate the scales and other site amenities failed in mid-February. A temporary generator is being used to keep the site operational. Connie Jordison

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