You may have read the news that New Westminster is moving to a new system of garbage collection. The old “Oscar the Grouch” garbage cans are out, and an automated garbage collection , with dedicated bins provided by the city, are in! What you may not have realized is how big those bins are going to be, and this is a matter of potential concern to the NWEP. Please refer to the official city page on proposed automated collection.
A Little Background.
As far back as 2008, the City of New Westminster signed on to Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Challenge . The goal is to reduce the amount of trash being trucked to landfills, mostly through diversion of waste from the “traditional” waste stream to recycling. The “Zero Waste” challenge is a commitment to divert 70% of waste by 2015, compared to the 55% diverted in 2008: a more than 25% reduction in volume of waste we send to the landfill.
The City of New Westminster is doing many of the right things to keep diversion rates up: the one-stop recycling depot at sixth and McBride is a great example, the City has a popular blue bin recycling program and there has been the encouragement of back-yard and worm composting within the city.
In order to succeed in achieving Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste targets, it will be necessary to further increase our diversion of waste from the traditional waste stream into more sustainable destinations. This has been done before. In the 1990s, residents of New Westminster we able to dispose 3x75L (225L) bins of garbage every week. This was reduced to the current 2x75L (150L) largely due to the introduction of the blue bin recycling program. Diversion programs work, and households, including large families have been managing well, in the most part, with the current 150L disposal limitation.
The next step forward for waste diversion in our City will be the introduction of the Green waste and kitchen scraps collection program. Such a program has the potential to divert up to 30-35% of our traditional waste stream (according to Metro Vancouver’s own statistics) into industrial composting facilities which are being setup in our region and will no longer need to be trucked to Cache Creek.
Our concern arises from a possible consequence of the transition to the new automated waste collection system. The transition will require all single family dwellings to obtain a new garbage bin (example: http://vancouver.ca/ENGSVCS/solidwaste/autocollect/dimensions.htm), one which is compatible with the new trucks. While many sizes of bin are possible it seems that the City has primarily considered larger bin sizes (120L, 180L, 240L), which, when combined with new “Green Waste” bins represent a significant increase in the volume of garbage residents will be able to dispose of.
While it is obvious that 180L and 240L bins are significantly larger than our current 150L limit, it is important to realize that even the 120L size offers a significant increase in garbage capacity when combined with the new Green waste collection program. This is because a typical 150L load of household garbage contains only 110L of non-green garbage (typically). So with the advent of green garbage collection, a 120L bin for non-green garbage would represent a slight capacity increase over the amount we would be allowed now.
Any increase in household capacity to produce garbage:
− would work against our City’s commitment to the regional Zero Waste Challenge
− will discourage participation in current and future recycling and waste diversion programs (why recycle
if there’s lots of room in the garbage bin?)
− could result in a significant increase in garbage utility fees in the foreseeable future if there is no
incentive to reduce the volume of garbage we produce (tipping fees are going up significantly and can
best be mitigated by reducing the volume of garbage we produce)
Given our long established experience with 2x75L bins and the arrival of new waste diversion opportunities, its hard to see why anyone would require more than 120L of garbage pickup every week. Yet the City’s website suggests that 180L bins may be considered as the standard size for most households in New Westminster. How can we achieve our 25% waste diversion goals if our capacity to dispose of trash is increasing by 80% or more?
The Way Forward
At the very least, the City should follow the City staff recommendation to adopt the 120L bins as the “standard” size, and work as soon as possible towards kitchen scrap collection in green waste bins and bi-weekly pickup of dry garbage (i.e. garbage with kitchen scraps removed). Ideally, a smaller bin size, similar to that available in the City of Vancouver (75L) should be made available to those who request it. Accordingly, larger bins should be made available to those who specifically request them, with the following caveat:
People should receive true financial rewards for reducing the volume of garbage they produce, as reduction in the volume saves the City money. The smallest bins should represent a true cost savings every year on property taxes, and the larger bins should have a true cost every year on property taxes, not just a token charge when picking up the bin. Good examples of jurisdictions where there are true economic incentives to choosing smaller bins are Seattle and Portland, where double the volume equals double the utility charge for trash pickup.
The NWEP is confident that the residents of New Westminster can rise to the challenge of reducing waste and achieving waste diversion and we know we will all be better prepared to face future sustainability challenges as a result of these and other steps being made in the City. The decisions being made now on garbage bin sizes potentially impacts our garbage capacity over decades and so the right decision has to be made with the future in mind. We need to develop an infrastructure which makes doing the right thing the easy thing to do and makes it harder for us to do the wrong thing.
What to do?
The decisions on bin sizes and availability are being made right now. The City is scheduled to allocate budget money for bin purchases in the month of March. Once the bins are bought, it will be very expensive to change tracks… the time to act is now.
Please contact the Mayor and Council members as soon as possible, and let them know you don’t want two 180L bins. Tell than that you support waste reduction, and the saving of taxpayers’ money by providing smaller bins, and providing real, meaningful economic incentives to those who choose to throw away less. See “How to Write to the Mayor and Council” for helpful tips on getting your point across effectively. Most importantly: do it now!by