Skip to content

Going green could leave municipalities in the red

With a such a focus out on the environment these days, from a young age kids are taught about saving the planet through programs such as recycling.
The Town of Bonnyville’s recycling centre is located on the west side of 54 Avenue near the municipality’s public works shop.
The Town of Bonnyville’s recycling centre is located on the west side of 54 Avenue near the municipality’s public works shop.

With a such a focus out on the environment these days, from a young age kids are taught about saving the planet through programs such as recycling.

So what's stopping recycling from being as routine as garbage pickup? As with most things, money is a key factor.

While the City of Cold Lake implemented curbside recycling about seven years ago, a steep cost and lack of interest has kept the Town and MD of Bonnyville at bay when it comes to blue bin programs.

“I think (the current) program is serving the needs. Recycling is a double-edged sword in terms of balancing the costs of the program and cost recovery with the needs or expectations of the residents in the area,” said Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski. “The idea has been talked about off and on but there really hasn't been that in depth of an exploration.”

Town Coun. Jim Cheverie, who also sits on the solid waste committee and is the area representative on the Alberta Coordinated Action for Recycling Enterprises (CARE), said there would be significant costs incurred with starting up a curbside blue bin pickup.

“Our existing garbage pickup that's done every week costs about $12 per month, included in that is $3 a month to carry some of the costs for our recycling compound operations.”

According to Cheverie, adding curbside recycling would bump the costs up about an extra $10 per month to $22 per month. It's a cost which he said isn't warranted within the town right now.

“You would have to have a reasonable amount of residents to support that and we don't right now.”

Currently, the town operates a recycling depot next to the public works yard. Due to increased use of the drop-off centre, they are in the midst of building a new depot on the other side of the yard that will offer more space. The town's recycling centre takes all varieties of recyclable material including cans, plastic, glass, cardboard and paper.

“The existing one is hard to maintain because it's pretty small and extremely popular. We do have all the bins hauled twice a week and it just doesn't seem be enough to keep up with the pace,” explained Cheverie.

Opening about 12 years ago in 2003, Cheverie said it's positive to see residents consistently using the depot. While costs for a curbside recycling program might be out of reach for now, it's actually cheaper to transfer recyclables, which make the short trip to Cold Lake, then it is to haul garbage to Ryley.

“It's a 400 kilometre trip for garbage so if we could take any of those commodities out of the garbage then it saves the town ratepayers and the MD ratepayers thousands and thousands of dollars.”

Cheverie added, “Plus the fact that you're not putting it in a landfill forever and ever. So to recycle is the only positive way to reduce costs and to take waste out of the waste stream.”

The MD of Bonnyville is facing not only the same cost constraints as the town, but also the expansive geographical area they have to cover. Even for household waste, curbside pickup just got rolling in the hamlets of Fort Kent and Ardmore.

“The curbside is extremely expensive and we don't have the concentration to do that. As you can imagine, curbside for country residential covers a lot of space,” said CAO Chris Cambridge.

However, Cambridge said the various landfill and dumpsites within the MD are quite popular. In addition to general garbage, residents can find bins for cardboard and composting as well as metal drop-off at the landfill sites.

“We don't do the plastics and cans. It's just a cost factor at this point in the volumes, there just hasn't been a demand for it,” said Cambridge.

Both the town recycling depot and the MD's landfill sites are free for residents and businesses to go and drop-off their recyclables.

As far as recycling in the area goes, Cold Lake is ahead of the times. Starting around 2008, residents within city limits can set out their recyclables at the curb bi-weekly.

“We had a lot of demand from residents actually. It was driven from a lot of the residents wanting recycling in their community,” said Mayor Craig Copeland. “We just decided it was something we wanted to try...we wanted to reduce our wet waste and try to include recycling at both residential and commercial.”

The city's goal is to have utilities at a full cost-recovery, including water, sewer, household garbage and recycling. In order to stick to that, Copeland said there was an extra fee of about $8 per month added to residents' utility bills.

In the current budget year, the city has budgeted for recycling expenses totaling just under $650,000. From recycling, they are expecting to bring in a revenue of close to $675,000.

Commercial businesses are also encouraged to recycle as well. In addition to curbside pickup, the City of Cold Lake houses the regional recycling centre, which has sorting bins for the various recyclable items. Copeland expressed that they have a positive impact since starting the recycling program.

“It's greatly reduced the amount of wet waste we're hauling to Ryley. We can't bury our waste in Cold Lake so it all has to be hauled to Ryley, so if you can reduce your wet waste stream you're better off.”

The main reason for Cold Lake acquiring curbside recycling was not only a push from residents, the main champions of recycling were actually the youngest members of the community – the students.

“The school kids really lobbied hard for council to do recycling in Cold Lake so the school kids deserve a lot of credit for pushing recycling,” said Copeland.

He added, “They wanted recycling to be picked up at the school, so the kids really do recycling in a big way.”

While the Town and MD are currently content with their level of recycling, that could change is more residents show an interest in curbside pickup or if a provincial movement is implemented.

“If the residents of town, through any kind of support group, would want to support blue bin front yard pick up (it could happen),” said Cheverie. “The other option would be if (Alberta) did something like they do in other provinces in Canada. They have legislation where if you're in a town or county with more than 5,000 people, you have to have a front yard blue bin recycling system of some kind.”

Sobolewski noted that being in a remote area, there are unique challenges.

“We're not like Edmonton or Calgary where they have their facilities set up right in their back yard. We've got travel costs, we definitely have some challenges being in remote Alberta.”

However, he added that it all comes down to whether curbside recycling is something residents really want.

“It's really up to the tax payer because to go to curbside or to increase the level of effort, your solid waste costs will increase accordingly.”

For the City of Cold Lake, Copeland said council has continued to support their recycling program year after year and will go ahead with it for the foreseeable future.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks