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Hinton to modernize waste system

Masha Scheele

After more than two hours of discussing the solid waste management program at the standing committee meeting on July 7, council members recommended the implementation of the full cost recovery residential and commercial waste collection and the modernization of the waste collection system.

This will come back to a future regular council meeting for decision and if passed, new bins and trucks will be implemented throughout the community.

The new modernized waste collection system consists of a front load truck for collection of various sizes of bins for residential and commercial customers. 

The system reduces time it takes to dump bins, is more efficient, and tracks each bin by a Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) on each bin which in turn encourages waste reduction, prevents illegal dumping, and increases recycling.

“My recommendation is not to continue with our status quo, because there are some cost implications and some of the items are getting obsolete from the market,” said Emdad Haque, director of infrastructure services.

The estimated yearly cost is $1,399,290 and must be collected from the customers based on actual cost to provide services under a full cost recovery model, according to the report from administration.

Coun. Dewly Nelson stated that the town always had full cost recovery, but these changes will move the system towards a user pay system.

In the current system, commercial clients pay less than what the service costs and that burden is spread out over every taxpayer.

If adopted, the estimated monthly fee will be $13.50 for Residential and Institutional, $10.75 for MultiFamily Residential, $63 for Commercial Customer with no bins, and $117.50 for Commercial Customers with bins.

On top of that decision, the committee also recommended a virtual and in-person public engagement session to be held before the first quarter of 2021, that will include the topic of recycling options.

Administration recommended approving a waste collection option with curbside co-mingled recycling, but most council members wanted to deal with the waste management system separately from recycling.

Curbside co-mingled recycling refers to adding a bin where residents can combine all recyclable materials, which would eliminate all existing recycling services.

Each council member was in favour of getting public feedback on the waste management system, but Mayor Marcel Michaels stated there are many other issues that need to be prioritized before recycling.

“To use resources of the town and make this a focal point, to get engagement and bring the public in, I have to rank things in my mind and that’s truthfully not on my list in July of 2020,” Michaels said in response to the direction of a public engagement session.

Adding in-house recycling services would put more pressure on the system, as recycling would have to be shipped to a facility in Edmonton and increase the costs of transportation, noted Haque.

Haque presented two co-mingling options, one that is done in-house and one that is contracted.

“Maybe in the future under the [west yellowhead regional waste management authority], if they develop any infrastructure here, there can be an option to do that,” Haque said.

In-house collection is currently not feasible because of risks, capacity, and lack of local recycling infrastructure which may be cost prohibitive, Haque explained.

Co-mingle recycling pick ups would be done bi-weekly if council decided to move ahead with it and garbage pick ups would remain every week.

Nelson pointed out that so much of recycling is taking waste and moving it somewhere else, adding to the transportation bill.

He mentioned there is a new wave of keeping recycling waste in the community and dealing with it instead of shipping those products somewhere else.

“If we are going to have a curbside recycling conversation, I think we should also have a conversation of where recycling is going as an overall industry in Alberta and in Canada, especially as a community with major transportation costs,” Nelson said.

He added there is a big picture conversation needed to be had before investing in curbside recycling.

Coun. Tyler Waugh agreed that council should deal with the initial issue of modernizing the waste collection system and recycling opportunities can be discussed in the future.

Coun. Albert Ostashek made comments that part of modernizing the waste management system is to take recycling out of the stream and added that he has heard from citizens in Hinton that they want a recycling program that’s universal and accessible. 

Changes to the current waste collection system have been discussed with Council for several years.

Administration’s report stated Commercial waste causes the most damage to equipment, but old-fashioned bins and sideload pickup used for Residential waste also create challenges in operation and maintenance of the program.

To keep the current system, the costs would increase substantially.

The Town continues to incur Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claims and numerous complaints from the operators who operate the automated garbage truck.

In early 2020, Administration developed a Waste Management Pilot Project, which was approved by council.

This pilot project created an opportunity to review options for addressing the town’s system and modernizing the solid waste management system including a review of service levels and user fees.

Haque noted that the old bins cost nearly $600 per bin, while the bins used in the pilot project cost $80.

Other bin options are available, and Michaels said early on in the conversation that he wanted the town to look at more options for heavier bins that won’t blow over.

A survey of those in the pilot project area said 64 per cent described the new bins as better or much better, and 61 per cent said the same for system changes. 

Eighty per cent of users self reported overfilling bins, and 54 per cent reported bins blowing over when empty while 10 per cent reported bins blowing over when full. 

Seventy-three per cent reported interest in co-mingle recycling service.