The City of Lacombe is in jeopardy of losing their curbside recycling service after a recent bid for the service came in 66 per cent over budget.
Mayor Grant Creasey said the bid was a bit of a surprise to council.
“It is unfortunate that the overall waste industry, certainly across Alberta if not all of Canada, is experiencing some huge challenges right now. Over time, I feel this will be a positive thing and will help speed up some more viable options for our municipal waste,” he said.
The bid came after the City recently completed a three-year contract and put out a bidding process that only received one suitor.
“We received one proposal and it came in higher than we budgeted,” Jordan Thompson, City director of operations and planning, said.
Environmental 360 Solutions (E360S), who had the contract for the previous three years, put in a bid price of $7.49/dwelling/month, a significant increase (66 per cent) over the City’s budgeted rate of $4.50/dwelling/month.
“We certainly would have liked to see more bids,” Thompson said. “It is a three-year term and we don’t release the contract very out frequently. We reached out to other providers who do solid waste collection and asked them why they didn’t participate.
“It was for a couple reasons, mainly some of the providers would rather take the whole solid waste service in Lacombe — of course the City provides most services on the solid waste side, just not recycling. Others have indicated that the distance from their home base is too far to make it viable.”
The significant increase was met uniformly with consternation by council and a decision to vote on the bid was put off until May 27th, after council and administration have an opportunity to tour E360S in Red Deer on May 22nd.
The sharp increase in cost is a result of macro changes to the recycling industry as a whole that has led to China and other countries no longer accepting certain types of materials.
Creasey saw the system of shipping waste around the world to be an ineffective solution.
“It seems to me to be a convenient answer, although a truthful one, that foreign countries will not receive our waste. I think when a person really examines it, shipping waste halfway around the world is not exactly a viable or sustainable way to operate,” he said.
The changes in Asia mean that Canadians are left looking for, often more expensive, recycling solutions
“The effect domestically is that there are no buyers for the materials,” Thompson said. “Recycling providers have had to find new buyers and in some cases they have, primarily in the United States. Otherwise, there is no one available to take the material and that causes them to reduce the materials they will accept from municipalities and it also means that a revenue stream they were relying on is no longer available.
“In response, they have raised their prices.”
With the future of recycling up in the air, Thompson said the May 22nd tour will give administration an opportunity to ask questions — however recycling in Lacombe could ultimately up in limbo with council also approving an overall solid waste audit.
“What that will do is provide a more holistic assessment of the solid waste situation in Lacombe,” Thompson said. “If the recycling system were to discontinue, we wouldn’t have a contract with a provider anymore.
“Effectively that would mean the curbside level of service would no longer be in use.”
Creasey understands that many residents in Lacombe will be disapointed with a disruption of recycling service.
“It may upset some and it is unfortunate because in all honesty the service has not existed in the form they would have thought it has for quite some time,” he said. “If there is no market for these items, paying to sort and collect them separately is very counter-productive and goes against all of the principles you are trying to accomplish in terms of reducing waste and conserving energy.”
No going forward with the bid would mean that in the mean time many recyclable materials will ultimately be diverted to the landfill until a suitable replacement plan is found.
“It doesn’t mean the curbside recycling system will be gone forever,” Thompson said.
”It just means they are taking a step back and saying, ‘What is the purpose of the curbside recycling and how can we achieve those objectives perhaps through a different means?’, while ensuring that the City of Lacombe is still being environmentally responsible and ensuring Lacombe has a sustainable solid waste system overall.”
Creasey was reluctant to comment on a decision council has yet to vote on, but he did foresee changes coming in the near future
“It would be presumptuous of me to say anything now because council has not voted on it but I think we are in for some changes,” he said.