KELOWNA - Central Okanagan residents are facing steep increases to use the Glenmore landfill over the next few years, and a band of local citizens that have organized to clean up illegal dumping in the backcountry expects that will make them a lot busier.
Okanagan Forest Task Force, a group dedicated to fighting illegal dumping, says a surge in such activities after the fee increase at the Glenmore Landfill is a given, especially the introduction of a $5 fee for dumping yard waste.
“It’s going to go up, I just don’t know how much,” president Kane Blake says. “If I go up the Gillard Forestry Road today, there’s yard waste in every single ditch for five miles. No one wants to pay to dump yard waste.”
But that's not for certain at all, city and regional district officials say. The fact there's yard waste already being dumped while the service is free may even be proof there is no connection between landfill fees and illegal dumping. Central Okanagan Regional District environmental services manager Peter Rotheisler says they’ve seen little evidence of an increase in dumping after previous fee increases.
“Convenience is the big factor, probably the biggest reason for fee avoidance in general,” he says, pointing to rural areas in the Kootenays which provide free transfer stations. “They still have illegal dumping problems. For some people, it doesn’t matter what the fee is.”
He says the only way they measure the problem is the number of illegal dumpsites reported each year and the amount of money they have to spend to remove them.
“Spending has remained flat over the last five years and is even trending downward,” he says.
Every year but 2016, that is. That's the year the task force formed and pushed the number of known dumpsites to 68 from 44 the year before, also pushing the dollar figure past $17,000 from $13,600 the year before. No one knows exactly how prevalent illegal dumping is.
Starting in 2018, the Glenmore Landfill will increase tipping fees to $85 from $65 per tonne, on its way to $100 in 2020. A $5 fee for tipping yard waste will also be introduced while fees for other waste are all going up. The last time it went up was 2012 to $65 per tonne from $55.
The increase in revenue will be used to finance a series of projects over the next ten years worth $51 million and designed to increase the capacity and lifespan of the Glenmore Landfill.
Rotheisler says the fee increases could actually have the effect of reducing waste by encouraging more recycling as local businesses and residents seek to keep their disposal bills in check.
“It provides more incentives to look for alternatives,” he adds. “Maybe they will hold onto something a little longer if it costs more to get rid of it or maybe they’ll make more effort to reuse it."
His office was consulted ahead of the fee increases, Rotheisler says.
“We knew it was coming,” he says. “If we had significant concerns, we wouldn’t be shy about sharing them.”
For his part, Blake says his group actually has seen a reduction in illegal dumping recently, but only because of the backcountry ban introduced in August during the height of the wildfire season.
“It really helped keep the idiots out of the bush. There was nowhere near the garbage as there was in the past,” he says.
He suggests a more permanent solution would be to install transfer stations on the major roads leading into the backcountry.
What do you think? Will people continue to line up and pay increased fees or dump their problems elsewhere? Let us know in the comments below.
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