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- Can-do spirit.
The good news is Halifax is recycling more. The bad news is all those extra bottles and cans have put HRM’s recycling plant past its operational capacity.
Currently the Bayers Lake facility can process 28,000 tonnes annually. In July, Regional Council approved an expansion to raise that limit by an additional 8,000 tonnes. The expansion will be covered, in part, by installing a new $30 tipping fee for all industrial and commercial industry (ICI) recyclables.
“The vast majority of municipalities in Nova Scotia charge a tip fee for recycling,” says Matt Keliher, manager of solid waste for HRM. Cumberland-Colchester, for example, can charge as much as $145 per metric tonne for ICI recyclables.
Luc Erjavec, vice president in Atlantic Canada for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association, says the member businesses of his organization “can live with” the fee, but he isn’t happy about it.
“It’s not going to break us. It’s not a huge extra burden, but if you read it, it’s a bit of a tax grab.”
He’s also a little annoyed to just hear about the new tipping fee now—a few weeks before it comes into effect in January—when council voted on it back in July.
Following an in camera meeting on July 19, city council voted to authorize the capacity expansion and tipping fee, as well as negotiate with Miller Waste to amend that company’s operational contract for the HRM-owned facility.
Additional business information on all those decisions were contained in a confidential staff report that council voted to make public, but has yet to be released. Spokesperson Tiffany Chase writes in an email that the conditions of the report “have not yet been met.” More information on the tipping fees (minus the in-camera information) is due back at council’s next meeting on December 6.
Miller Waste is paid per tonne by HRM to run its recycling facility until 2019, and also gets to keep 25 percent of the revenue from the sale of recycled materials. A report last year by CBC found that formula is losing Halifax over $1 million a year on its recycling programs. The municipality also ignored a recommendation by Stantec Consulting to keep 100 percent of the revenue from recyclable sales when it renegotiated Miller Waste’s contract last summer.
Keliher expects the new tipping fee will bring in about $200,000 a year once it's in place, and will help ensure the recycling plant's future operations.
“Without any further challenges, that facility will be good to operate for the next 10, 15 years.”
Aside from HRM's bottles and cans, the Bayers Lake recycling plant also takes in 1,200 tonnes of recyclable material annually from Chester under a municipal agreement. Chase says the plant’s expansion is needed to accommodate future growth in HRM, with or without what's being hauled in from Chester.
Residential garbage produced in HRM decreased by 24 percent over the last year, while recycling increased by 13 percent. Most of the credit for that goes to the introduction of clear bags, says Keliher, and “people continuing to source separate” better than they have in the past.