Burnaby to hike garbage disposal costs

Burnaby homeowners will see hikes in their next property tax bills from $65 to $95 after council approved a new fee structure for garbage disposal Monday.

The increases are to cover the rising cost of disposing of garbage collected from residential toters, according to a city staff report.

Metro Vancouver tipping fees have increased by 50 per cent between 2008 and 2012, from $1.4 million to $2.2 million for Burnaby alone, and are set to jump another 41 per cent in the next several years, from $107 a tonne in 2013 to $151 a tonne in 2016.

Meanwhile, despite a move in 2010 to the automated pickup system using toters and a fee structure that Burnaby city hall had hoped would encourage waste reduction, the amount of garbage being picked up from single and two-family homes has remained almost constant, the report said.

The city aims to change that with the new fees along the principle of "use more, pay more and use less, pay less."

Choosing the smallest-sized toter, 120 litres, had previously triggered a $40 credit on the tax bill to encourage people to use that option. Starting in 2013, that will cost $25.

The default size, 180 litres, had been free but will now cost $75. The cost of the 240-litre toter will go from $117.50 to $205 and the 360-litre size, from $290 to $385 in 2013.

The increases are limited to recovering the cost of tipping charges the city pays Metro Vancouver and does not include other garbage service costs such as recycling, composting, labour, fuel or equipment.

Coun. Dan Johnston, chair of the city's finance committee, said the idea is to move the garbage disposal charges to the March tax bill to clarify what it costs to get rid of trash.

"Right now it's buried in the residential tax bill. The average person doesn't have a clue what they're paying to dispose of their garbage."

The belief is that the higher fees will provide a financial incentive for people to recycle and compost more, which would lead to less garbage going into bins and a related drop in what the city pays to dispose of it.

He added that informal audits found that in many cases, toters are currently only being filled half to two-thirds full every week, apparently the result of people being cautious and choosing toters that were larger than they actually needed.

Residents will get the chance to exchange their toters for more appropriate sizes for free from Jan. 1 to March 15. After that, such exchanges will cost $50.

Coun. Colleen Jordan noted that without the fee hikes, the increased tipping fees are being subsidized by general residential property taxes. That can't continue without the city having to cut its budget in other areas.

The change wasn't approved unanimously, as Coun. Sav Dhaliwal was the lone council member to oppose it.

He noted that property tax bills won't be going down even when the garbage disposal fees are charged separately.

And those who had chosen the smallest toter, who are already doing their part to reduce waste, he said, should just have the $40 credit removed, bringing their fee up to zero instead of being charged $25.

"It isn't sustainable within our existing city budget to constantly absorb those additional costs," said Mayor Derek Corrigan. "But the good part of this is hopefully it remains cost neutral."

He noted that the city has no control over what Metro Vancouver charges in tipping fees, which makes it extremely difficult to manage budget-wise.

As city manager Bob Moncur explained, the goal is to remove that element of uncertainty from the overall city budget.

"This way at least we can put the cost out in front so everybody can see it," he said. "And they might be as frustrated as we are that there's no control over that cost but at least it's in a place that's separate and identified as opposed to being buried in the tax bill which would have to go up significantly to cover these costs."

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