Metro Vancouver’s waste bylaws to be clarified this summer

The Province. July 7th, 2019.

Author: Rob Shaw

As quoted:

The B.C. government is nearing a decision on whether to approve Metro Vancouver’s new waste bylaws, which the region says will license hauling companies and improve recycling targets.

But the Competition Bureau of Canada has warned the law could give the regional government an unfair monopoly on the waste business.

Environment Minister George Heyman will decide this summer if he’ll sign off on the region’s changes to commercial waste hauling, his office said late last week.

The bylaws were submitted to the province in December 2017.

Metro Vancouver wants permission to start a new licensing system for commercial waste haulers, which would mandate $100 annual fees for registration and yearly reports on where the haulers dumped their waste.

The reporting declaration is key, because Metro Vancouver began a new surcharge in 2018 – called the Generator Levy Rebate – that added $42 a tonne to local garbage that haulers take to private facilities or cheaper landfills outside Metro, such as in Abbotsford or Washington state.

The penalties are meant to push private companies back to using Metro Vancouver waste sites, where they pay a tipping fee that generates enough revenue to pay for the region’s garbage and recycling services without requiring tax hikes.

Private companies that might try to skirt the system could see themselves banned under the new licensing regime.

“There’s a big pushback on these regulations because it pushes an enforcement arm on them which until now they’ve been exempted from,” said Jack Froese, mayor of the Township of Langley and chair of the region’s zero waste committee. “It’s the Wild, Wild West of garbage hauling.”

Private waste companies have argued Metro Vancouver is giving its regional facilities a monopoly on waste collection.

They’ve also said the annual licensing system does not provide long-term certainty for their operations.

Their complaints were backed by the Competition Bureau of Canada, which wrote a letter to Heyman in May.

Despite the bureau’s appeal to Heyman, the B.C. government is not being asked to approve the new levy, said Paul Henderson, Metro’s general manager of solid wasteservices. The regional government already approved the levy, in 2018 and even if Heyman rejects the licensing system, the region has the power to keep the fee in place, said Henderson.

So far, the levy has deterred haulers from going outside the region and nobody has been charged, he said.

The bylaw changes have the support of Metro Vancouver’s board, as well as the David Suzuki Foundation and Recycling Council of B.C., which argue they’ll help the region meet the government’s CleanBC climate change goals of diverting 95 per cent of organic waste from landfills to composting facilities.

Metro Vancouver’s overall diversion rate is 63 per cent.

In addition, the new bylaws would require haulers to make sure that all homes, apartments, condos, businesses and institutions have all the garbage, recycling and organic bins to separate waste.

Roughly 20 per cent of the region still does not have full access to all the bins, according to Metro Vancouver.