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Waste rates to reward trash reduction

St. Albert residents who are already dedicated recyclers and composters could save $1.10 a month under a new waste fee scheme that council endorsed this week.

St. Albert residents who are already dedicated recyclers and composters could save $1.10 a month under a new waste fee scheme that council endorsed this week.

After debating a bylaw that will set the rates of a new waste collection program, council voted to allow residents at the lowest subscription level to pay less than they currently do for garbage collection.

Under the new program that’s set to roll out in June, households will receive two plastic waste containers, one for compostable waste and one for garbage. The garbage program will offer three container sizes that equate to the current subscription levels of one, two and four bags a month. The city had proposed that the new program would have a linear rate scheme of $2.20 per bag, or $2.20, $4.40 and $8.80 for the three subscription levels.

However, council decided Monday night to reduce the cost of the lowest level to $1.10 and increase the highest level fee by 20 cents to $9. The middle level will remain the same as originally proposed.

Total waste fees, which include $16.69 in flat fees for solid waste, recycling and organics, will be $17.70, $21.09 and $25.69 a month.

Coun. Cathy Heron spearheaded the shift to a “non-linear” scheme that rewards residents who already produce very little garbage.

“Some people put a whole lot of effort into composting and separating [their waste] and shopping differently,” Heron said. “This non-linear rate is the only way to reward them.”

Heron had originally proposed a 73 cent increase for level-three subscribers and a $1.10 decrease for middle-level subscribers. Several councillors felt those changes were too drastic.

The final fees that council accepted were a compromise proposed by Coun. Cam MacKay.

Of the 18,350 households, about 10,000 are currently at the highest subscription level, said solid waste program co-ordinator Christian Benson. The City of Toronto has a similar garbage subscription program and saw about 30 per cent of its highest subscribers drop to the middle level after introducing organics, he said.

MacKay was concerned the non-linear fee structure would increase garbage fees for more than half of St. Albert’s households. He felt the scheme would put a burden on large families, who would have difficulty reducing their garbage output.

“I really like the sentiment behind reducing waste. I just don’t know if that’s going to be possible,” MacKay said. “I think we’re going to be punishing a lot of the demographic we want to move to St. Albert, people with families.”

Coun. Len Bracko tried to convince council to adopt the original linear fee schedule that would have attached a cost of $2.20 per bag at each subscription level.

“The goal is for everyone to reduce,” Bracko said.

Couns. Malcolm Parker and Roger Lemieux were concerned about losing revenue.

“There’s a revenue impact that’s fairly significant here,” said Parker.

Mayor Nolan Crouse felt the city should do anything it could to reduce the amount of waste produced.

“What a great problem to have if we didn’t get revenue from waste,” he said. “That’s where it needs to go.”

The rates aren’t written in ink yet as council only passed second reading of the solid waste management bylaw. Third and final reading will come at a future meeting, likely next week.

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