Lacombe trashes curbside recycling pickup

Taking blue bins out to the curb for pickup is now a thing of the past in Lacombe as the city as a result of a ban of recycling exports to China and other Asian markets, and the increase in collection rates. (File photo)

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The City of Lacombe is officially trashing collection of recycling in residential areas.

At their regular meeting Monday, city council voted unanimously in favour of allowing a contract with current service provider Environmental 360 Solutions (E360S) to expire May 31,2019, leaving the community without curbside recycling pickup effective June 1, 2019.

City of Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey says their discontinuation of the program wasn’t an easy decision, but

“For me, it’s a public perception issue and I don’t want people to think Lacombe is not doing everything in its power to be proactive when it comes to being good stewards of the environment,” he said.

“However, we have to weigh that against the fact that our current system is not acceptable, and I don’t want people to confuse collecting potentially recyclable items with items being recycled. Unfortunately, those two haven’t necessarily been in alignment for quite some time now.”

The topic originally came up for discussion at their May 13 meeting, when council was notified only current provider E360S, who had bought out Can Pak Environmental, had bid for the recycling collection contract, albeit with a 66 per cent increase in costs – $7.49 per dwelling from $4.50.

The increase in cost is combined with a reduction of items being collected – such as the collection of only No. 2 plastics instead of No. 1-7 – as a result of the recycling crisis that began with China banning plastic imports, followed by Malaysia and India. As such, recycling companies in Canada have a backlog of materials and are, in some cases, paying to move ‘recyclable’ materials they can’t sell to landfills.

Normally, revenue realized from selling of materials is used to bring down collection and sorting costs, but with many of those materials not being accepted by other countries, those costs are now being downloaded onto municipalities, and in turn, taxpayers. Companies are also being increasingly more selective about only collecting items that can still be sold, thus the decrease in targeted items for collection.

Administration originally recommended the city enter into a four-month contract with E360S to allow for an educational and transitional period, however, councilors said in their discussions with residents, those initially concerned agreed the system wasn’t environmentally sound, and cutting the service now would provide opportunities to find better ways to deal with recyclable products.

Early social media feedback, however, proved not all were convinced this was the best move forward.

More than one resident referred to the decision as a step backward, with others believing residents would be willing to pay the increased costs to maintain status quo. Others wondered about the impact it would have on nearby municipalities.

Citizens will continue to pay for recycle collection through solid waste collection utility rates, unless council chooses to amend the utility rate bylaw approved in January. Council could choose to return monies realized through utility collection by way of a transfer from reserve into next year’s rate.

The city will monitor the state of the recycling industry and potentially look at bringing curbside recycling collection back in the future if the industry changes and it becomes financially viable again. A solid waste review, which could lead to changes in garbage and recycling pickup, is also planned for 2020.

In the meantime, citizens will still be able to drop off accepted recyclable materials at the Lacombe Recycling Depot, located at 5214 Wolf Creek Dr.

“I want people to appreciate the fact we’re not turning our backs on recycling,” said Creasey.

“We’re merely at a time where we feel it necessary to come up with better solutions and spend taxpayers money so they receive better bang for their buck.”