Curbside compost collection is churning towards the West Coast along with an upgrade to the current garbage and recycling pickup program.
“We’re all getting very excited about this,” said the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District’s general manager of community services Jenny Brunn during the ACRD’s Nov. 17 West Coast Committee meeting.
Upgrades to the West Coast Landfill are expected to begin in the summer of 2022 and will include a new aerated static pile composting system with construction costs currently estimated at $4.15 million, a significant increase to the ACRD’s 2018 estimate of $1.2 million.
“This is due to an increase in project scope to include more significant upgrades of the public tipping area and a global trend of project price escalations seen across the province and worldwide,” wrote ACRD organics coordinator Jodie Frank in a report to the committee.
“As Tofino had experienced with the wastewater project, we’ve seen huge increases in costing over the last few years,” Brunn said. “They’ve just really dramatically increased.”
The ACRD is still combing through funding options for the landfill upgrades and composting system and Brunn said there are “many options for financing this,” adding a longterm loan could be paid off through tipping fees or a tax requisition.
Frank’s report suggests the ACRD currently has about $3.5M remaining in its Strategic Priorities Grant for Regional Organics Diversion, though some of that money has been earmarked for Port Alberni and more work is needed to fairly allocate the remaining funds.
“Staff are finalizing impacts to tipping fees, user fees and overall budget and will present the financial implications of this project during the financial planning process in early 2022,” Frank’s report states.
The program is expected to roll out in the fall of 2022 and residents in Tofino and Ucluelet will receive a 120 litre organics cart, a 120 litre garbage cart and a 240 litre recycling cart.
Brunn noted that Port Alberni residents received a 240 litre organics cart and West Coast residents will have that option as well, though the default will be the 120 litre container.
“We actually feel that a smaller organics cart is more appropriate on the West Coast. The landscaping style is significantly different in Port Alberni than it is on the coast, but we are going to allow people to choose, if they wanted, to start with the 240 (litre) they can,” she said.
She added that there may be places where sharing is needed, suggesting duplexes will likely be encouraged to shared one 240 litre cart
“That has a lot to do with the available curbside space. Some places are relatively dense so we don’t want everyone having three carts out at the curb,” she said.
The purchase and delivery of the carts is expected to cost $575,000, bringing residential curbside collection fees up to approximately $200 a year.
“The current rate for curbside collection is $120 per year, that is rock bottom cheap compared to anywhere else, but it is only garbage and recycling, so that’s going to go up,” Brunn said. “I think you’re getting an excellent value…We recognize it is going to be an increase and hopefully people will see the value in that as we move forward.”
She said information packages will be sent out in January to bring West Coasters up to speed on the incoming program and that public engagement will be thorough as it rolls out.
“We’ll give everyone a lot of opportunity because we want everyone to come onboard voluntarily and change is challenging so we are patient,” she said.
Coun. Tom Stere is Tofino’s representative on the West Coast committee and said that while the costs are higher than initially expected, “It is still an incredible deal.”
“This is in line with neighbouring communities that are providing a similar service, in fact, for the service that we are getting it is highly acknowledged that we’re getting an incredible deal,” Stere said in an update to Tofino’s municipal council on Nov. 27.
Brunn said information sessions will be hosted in September as the program rolls out to help residents understand how to use the program, adding that Surfrider Pacific Rim will be a key component of the education campaign.
She added the ACRD is also working with local First Nations to see if they would like to be part of the curbside pickup program, though those talks are still underway.
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