The board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) has voted to end free disposal days at all TNRD solid waste management facilities (transfer stations and Eco-Depots).
At its meeting on Nov. 19, directors considered a recommendation from the TNRD’s Regional Solid Waste Management Committee that free disposal day events at all TNRD solid waste management facilities be eliminated. The recommendation was first made at the committee’s Oct. 14 meeting, where members heard a report from the TNRD’s manager of environmental health services, Jamie Vieira, about the history of free disposal days and various options regarding the annual event.
Free disposal days are usually held on scheduled dates each spring, and allow residents of the TNRD to bring one load consisting of items that normally attract a tipping fee to their local facility at no charge. This year’s disposal days were postponed due to COVID-19 and subsequently cancelled altogether.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, the full board of directors heard that the free disposal days cost the TNRD approximately $50,000 per year in waived tipping fees, plus another $30,000 per year in staff costs, advertising, hauling, traffic control, and more. Director of environmental services Jake Devlin explained that the free disposal days began in 2011, when the TNRD managed 12 solid waste management facilities; it now manages 29 sites.
He added that the amount of waste coming in on a free disposal day is nine times what they would see on a normal Saturday. People also bring in many recyclable items, for which there is no charge at any time, and there are fears that with the City of Kamloops having decided to end their free disposal days, there will be an influx of Kamloops residents at nearby TNRD facilities during free dumping days.
Barriere mayor Ward Stamer said that he had been told that the items most commonly saved up and then brought in on free disposal days are mattressess and tires on rims, and that permanently waiving the disposal fees for these items would cost the TNRD approximately $36,000 per year. After discussion, the motion was amended to state that while the disposal days would be eliminated, mattresses and tires on rims will be able to be disposed of at appropriate TNRD solid waste facilities year-round at no cost.
Several directors voiced their opposition to eliminating the free disposal days. Clearwater mayor Merlin Blackwell said that without them, he feared items would be dumped in the bush, adding that many residents looked forward to the free disposal days, a view echoed by Area “I” director Steve Rice, Ashcroft mayor Barbara Roden, and Logan Lake mayor Robin Smith.
In answer to a question from Rice, Devlin noted that all nine Eco-Depots but only six of the TNRD’s 20 transfer stations are able to accept mattresses. Rice and Roden both noted that communication on the issue will be very important, with Roden noting that the free disposal day is probably one of the few things that municipal residents would be able to identify as a service provided to them by the TNRD.
Blackwell reiterated this view, saying that he feared a lot of backlash from Clearwater residents over the decision. Chase mayor Rod Crowe expressed concerns over the potential for more dumping of material in the bush as a result of ending free disposal days.
Clinton mayor Susan Swan, a member of the Solid Waste Management Committee, said that there had been a lot of discussion around the recommendation, which she said would not be popular in her community. However, she added that it was the one option that all committee members could live with. “I think it will come down to communication and education. That is key. We have to let the public know why we came to this decision.”
When the vote was called, nine of the 26 TNRD directors were opposed to the motion: Blackwell, Smith, Rice, Roden, Crowe, Kamloops councillor Mike O’Reilly, Area “P” director Mel Rothenburger, Area “A” director Carol Schaffer, and Lytton mayor Jan Polderman.
The board also voted to conduct a comprehensive review of the hours of operation at all TNRD solid waste facilities. This was another recommendation arising out of the meeting on Oct. 14, where Vieira provided background information on a review of hours of operation that was conducted in 2015.
A similar review is proposed for 2021, and residents of the TNRD will have an opportunity to provide feedback and input on the hours of operation of the TNRD’s transfer stations and Eco-Depots, via a survey to be sent out next year.