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Colwood agrees to explore single-vendor contract for waste management

Looking to reduce household costs, Colwood considers outsourcing solid waste collection

Photo: Shutterstock

Colwood councillors are considering using a single contract vendor for solid waste management, rather than providing residents with a list of approved service providers that they need to contact directly for waste pick-up. 

Colwood is not the only regional municipality that does not provide integrated solid waste collection for residents, Langford and Central Saanich both provide residents with a list of local private garbage collection companies to choose from. 

Coun. Kim Jordison tabled a motion at Colwood council on March 25 to explore a single source vendor and cited potential savings for individual taxpayers as the main thrust of the consideration. 

“If there's better pricing that we can offer to residents through a single contracted company and logistical considerations with how many trucks that we have garbage in one week on one street, how it impacts the environment and the cost savings, we should look at that,” said Jordison in the council meeting.

Municipal waste management is a vital service and represents a vital responsibility to people, the environment, and to the future of both. Currently, there are four types of waste management in BC: landfill, incineration, recycling and composting.

Saanich and Victoria offer integrated solid waste pick-up for 132,000 residents. Victoria is responsible for the collection of solid waste from residential properties but not responsible for the collection of construction waste, prohibited waste, recyclable materials, or yard waste. An owner of a residential property with four or more residential units there may arrange to have its solid waste collected by a private waste removal company.

The pros and cons of single source versus multiple contract solid waste management is a far more complex issue than just household affordability. There are several regulatory documents that Colwood is obliged to consider as guidelines for its decision; the Environmental Management Act, its own community charter, and CRD Solid Waste bylaws.

For collection workers, there are benefits to working with sole-source or internal waste management vendors. Contractors working for private companies may not receive extended health and dental benefits or sick days. Municipal collection crews have regular schedules and shorter routes, key differences that may play out in actual service delivery. 

At a governance level, municipalities that manage their own solid waste collection services have more control over their waste management data and are able to report on their disposal rates and GHG reduction efforts. Reducing the amount of materials in landfills and promoting conditions that make it possible to return raw materials to industries in their jurisdictions reduces environmental impacts, contamination and pollution risks and promotes a circular economy in their communities. 

Within circular economies, municipal waste management becomes relevant because it is the primary means by which communities can implement strategies to reduce and recycle, as well as build and implement systems and facilities that facilitate the efficient use of the goods and services generated. In this way, municipalities are better able to support local industries in achieving their own GHG goals. 

With single vendors, municipalities are able to leverage contracts to reduce costs more effectively than individual consumers can. When garbage service is internal, municipalities are also able to resolve service issues residents may have but are unable to control when private companies handle their service.

The inflexibility of municipal pick-up schedules may leave residents needing additional capacity on some occasions without the option to call it in, however, residents are also able to call municipalities directly to find out why particular waste items may not have been picked up on any given day and come to a resolution.

Coun. Ian Ward wants to leverage municipal decision-making power and budgets to explore the options. “The worst-case scenario here is that we spend a little money looking at it and decide that it’s not for us, but I think we owe it to the Colwood residents and taxpayers to explore this because we have that economy of scale.”

“It’s done with great effect elsewhere, through contracting out. Courtenay Comox, for example, uses Emterrra on a 10-year contract. Surrey uses GFL, North Cowichan contracts out and Nanaimo Parksville does via the regional district. Every example that I look at comes in at a very reasonable cost, anywhere from $50 to $200 less than what a typical single-family home in Colwood pays.” 

Council will decide at its April 8 meeting, the timeline and budget for a proposed feasibility study.