Haulers trash city’s new garbage plan

Cleaner streets and lanes in Vancouver might be a prime objective of a city proposal for a commercial-waste collection system free of large bins, but getting the containers off municipal property could get messy.

A group of waste-disposal companies is threatening to haul the City of Vancouver before the courts if city council goes through with this scheme, which participating business-improvement associations anticipate will be in place in April.

Patterned after programs in cities such as Kelowna and Seattle, the proposed method involves businesses dividing waste into recyclables and garbage and putting them out in bags for pickup every day, possibly even more than once a day.

Ralph McRae, CEO of Northwest Waste Systems and representative of the Independent Waste Haulers’ Association, explained that the plan will affect contracts between garbage collectors and business clients.

“Those contracts are many years in length,” McRae told the Georgia Straight. “If the city tries to impose some bylaw that makes it more difficult for us to service them, then we’ll have to deal legally with that with the city.”

A January 28 letter from the association to city clerk Syd Baxter noted that waste haulers have been “rebuffed at every turn” in their attempts to seek a dialogue with city officials. “There are simple ways to accomplish what the City wants that will avoid the complexity, cost, litigation, embarrassment and ultimate failure of the Proposed System being pursued by the BIAs [business improvement associations],” the letter stated.

On November 29, 2007, city council unanimously approved in principle the implementation of a bin-free commercial-waste-hauling method. BIAs for Downtown Vancouver, Yaletown, the West End, Gastown, and Robson Street have collectively called for bids to operate the planned waste-hauling system. According to the bid package released by the associations in December, there are more than 700 bins currently sitting on city property in the BIAs’ areas. The deadline for submitting bids was January 25.

Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, wouldn’t disclose how many companies submitted bids or when the BIAs will select winning bidders. Gauthier noted council has the final say.

“The Dumpsters are on city property, so the city ultimately makes the decisions as to whether or not the Dumpsters are removed, and if they are removed, then what is the system that replaces it?” Gauthier told the Straight.

“If the city decides that Dumpsters aren’t allowed on their property, then the waste-hauling companies are going to find a way to service their clientele that doesn’t involve Dumpsters,” Gauthier said.

Jennifer Sheel, an engineer with the city’s solid-waste-management branch, told the Straight that the
BIAs have to submit a proposal to the city after they have chosen the winning bidders.

McRae said that the planned bag-pickup system will increase garbage fees for businesses by about four to six times. “If the city is not careful, the businesses will have to not only pay for this city-imposed system,” McRae said. “They’ll have to keep paying us under our contracts, which would make it even more ridiculous.”