Trash collected since the Sort-It Western program started is not going to central Newfoundland as initially planned, but communities paying for the service should not expect any cost savings returned to them any time soon.
The new waste collection management system has been in place in the greater Corner Brook and Bay St. George areas for just over a month now.
The idea was to have all solid waste collected and brought to transfer stations in Corner Brook and Bay St. George trucked to the engineered landfill site located at Norris Arm in central Newfoundland.
However, because Western Regional Waste Management has yet to secure a contract with Central Waste Management to accept that waste, the garbage has continued to be dumped at the landfills in western Newfoundland.
All recycled materials collected as part of the mandatory Sort-It Western program are being processed by Scotia Recycling in Corner Brook, as was expected to be the case with the new program.
Because Western Regional Waste Management is not paying the transportation costs to central Newfoundland it had expected to, some communities are asking why they are being charged tipping fees that are based on those expenses being incurred.
In an email sent recently to the waste management authority, as well as to The Western Star, Cape St. George Mayor Peter Fenwick outlined his town’s concerns. He asked why the town is being billed $164 per tonne for a service the waste management authority is not providing.
Fenwick asked for his town’s bill to be reviewed and adjusted to the lower previous rate until a deal is struck to bring garbage to Norris Arm.
Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons said he has concerns about the costs, too, as tipping fees have jumped from the $59 per tonne the city paid last year to the same $164 rate Fenwick complained about.
“We were given the clear expectation from (Western Regional Waste Management) that the price would change — likely decrease — in Year 2 once all contracts for dumping, transportation, etc. we’re in place and they had more certainty,” said Parsons.
He said the level of service at the curb being provided by Western Regional Waste Management is as promised, regardless of where the garbage ends up.
“That said, we fully expect that (Western Regional Waste Management) will operate with no operating profit and any cost savings they find will be passed on to the residents of Corner Brook and western Newfoundland,” said Parsons.
Josh Carey, a Corner Brook city councillor and chairman of the Western Regional Waste Management, said the waste management authority is still incurring significant costs to implement the Sort-It Western program, including contractual obligations to service providers, the start of operations at the new transfer stations and the increased effort to process more recyclable materials than had previously been acceptable.
He is hopeful that a deal to start transporting garbage to central Newfoundland will soon be in place. In an emailed response to Fenwick’s concerns, Western Regional Waste Management said, given the lack of a deal is deemed a short-term issue, it does not warrant any restructuring of budgets or tipping fees and no changes will be made to invoiced tipping fees.
In a subsequent interview, Carey said the savings after just one month of the new program would be miniscule and it’s not practical to start dividing it up amongst the communities involved.
If the savings ever do accumulate significantly enough to warrant giving communities a break, Carey said the board is committed to doing that.
“If we go seven months (without a deal with Central Waste Management), which is not something we wish to do, it will depend on what savings are in the system operationally,” said Carey. “If we can achieve efficiencies to the point where we can pass a per tonne cost saving back, we will do it. But to pass back a per tonne cost of 10 cents or 20 cents? You have to be realistic, as well.”
Carey would not elaborate on whether discussions with Central Waste Management have resumed or if there are plans to get back to the table soon.