Cost of waste is too expensive ... and it could get worse

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Star forum — By Vaughn Hammond

Dear Editor: Waste and recycling in Newfoundland and Labrador is too expensive and there are signs it could get worse.

Since 2007, the government has been busy implementing a strategy to reform the way waste is collected and disposed in this province. For a $200 million provincial Waste Management Strategy, it said, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could have modern waste-management services and become better environmental stewards.

Some of the goals are to eliminate open burning and close down the vast majority of dumps, which are mostly unlined. Adoption of the strategy would mean three full-service waste facilities being fed by a network of transfer stations set up throughout the province.

However, there has been a change in plans. In January, the auditor general reported that adoption of the strategy is going to be 58 per cent over budget. The $200 million strategy will become a $316 million strategy when completed. The overrun would have been greater but for a decision not to build a full-service facility in western region.

Rather, garbage will be transported from western region to the facility in central Newfoundland. This is going to save the provincial government money, but now small business owners are going to bear the cost instead.

Yet, it is not only small businesses that are concerned about fees associated with waste management. Cabin owners in eastern Newfoundland can’t believe that they have to pay $180 a year for garbage removal.

A common practice for them is to bring garbage home from the cabin, so they question why they have to pay the additional fee. They can relate to small business owners in Corner Brook who received notices earlier this year that their waste fees were going up 325 per cent in 2014 with nothing new provided in return.

Unlike the cabin owners, however, the costs for small business owners on the west coast are only going to grow when garbage is transported to Norris Arm North.

And it won’t end there. During an appearance before the House of Assembly’s public accounts committee in July, government officials confirmed intent to seek government approval on a waste recovery program for printed paper and packaging, as part of a concept known as extended producer responsibility.

This is a frightening thought for small business owners who will be bogged down in red tape and incur substantial costs. If the experience in other parts of the country is anything to go by, businesses would be required to record, track and pay recycling fees for any printed paper or packaging entering the consumer waste stream.

How could anyone think that small businesses could easily meet these obligations?

The costs related to a printed paper and packaging program are equally startling. On cardboard, for example, businesses are charged eight cents a kilogram in Ontario and 29 cents in British Columbia.

For plastic film in Ontario, the cost is 23 cents per kilogram, while in British Columbia it is 54 cents. And for glass packaging? The cost is three cents per kilogram in Ontario and 25 cents in British Columbia.

We can’t help but wonder what the fees will be here given our geography and demographics. Regardless, the costs will be prohibitive and it will be the consumer who will be punished.

Prices will have to increase, otherwise the alternative for small business owners is to reduce the hours offered to staff or even face the prospect  of closure.

It’s hard to imagine this would be welcome in many parts of the province where unemployment rates are still too high.

The provincial government has an opportunity to press the reset button on its approach to waste management and recycling. It should take this opportunity before it is too late.

Vaughn Hammond is director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Organizations: Dear Editor, Canadian Federation of Independent Business

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, British Columbia Corner Brook British Columbia.We

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