by Alex Butler and Jeff Nagel
Abbotsford will keep its garbage out of Metro Vancouver incinerators after council voted Monday to terminate its agreement to use the Metro-owned Matsqui Transfer Station.
Since 1988, the city has had an agreement where Metro owns and operates the local transfer station and trucks the garbage to the Cache Creek Landfill. The deal saw Abbotsford send garbage to Metro and pay the tipping fees it has set – but the agreement ends with the competed filling of the Cache Creek landfill annex, expected by the end of 2016.
Metro is planning to expand incineration in 2018, and increase tipping fees by about 50 per cent over the next three years.
Abbotsford has planned for years to find an alternative to avoid the increase in fees and keep local garbage out of incinerators, which the city has long opposed.
Council also voted to award the new contract to First Class Waste Services, for a two-year term with options to renew, starting late next year.
First Class owns and operates a certified transfer station in Abbotsford.
A report from staff says the change to First Class will result in up to $87,000 lower annual costs than the city currently pays and will avoid an annual cost increase of up to $302,000 based on Metro’s plans to increase rates.
Council praised the plan, with Coun. John Smith saying it will stop Abbotsford’s garbage from being “burned and blown back at us,” while saving money for the city.
While Metro’s recycling rate is climbing, it remains about 10 per cent short of a target of 70 per cent, a key assumption Metro has made in estimating it must build a new waste-to-energy plant capable of handling 370,000 tonnes per year of garbage that will no longer head to the Cache Creek landfill.
A higher target of 80 per cent diversion by 2020 would reduce but not eliminate the need for a potential second incinerator, according to Metro.
A broadened ban on the dumping of organics takes effect Jan. 1, extending mandatory food waste pickup to major business generators such as restaurants, grocers and other food handlers. But a Metro report warns all of the region’s disposal bans will “become ineffective” if the provincial government doesn’t approve Bylaw 280. The waste-flow bylaw would outlaw commercial haulers from sending garbage out of the region – usually first to Abbotsford and then south to U.S. landfills – thereby evading Metro’s higher tipping fees and its disposal bans.
The bylaw was passed by Metro’s board a year ago and is awaiting Environment Minister Mary Polak’s decision, amid intense lobbying from haulers who oppose it.
Critics claim the regulation aims to justify a new incinerator by penning up garbage in the region to feed it, but Metro officials insist the bylaw is essential or its waste services will be underfunded.
Metro now estimates 100,000 tonnes of garbage – about 20 per cent of all commercially collected waste – will exit the region via Abbotsford this year, twice as much as did in 2012.
The regional district is expected to increase its tipping fee by $1 to $109 per tonne next year.
In contrast, haulers can dump in Abbotsford for an estimated $70 a tonne, according to Metro.
The lost tipping fees are also beginning to add up – they’re expected to total $11 million in lost revenue for Metro this year.
If Bylaw 280 isn’t approved, Metro forecasts a $6-million deficit in its waste management budget next year.