Nelson council is reluctant to sign on to a region-wide organic waste composting plan. The city has not made a final decision about whether to get involved.
Council may want to go for a made-in-Nelson solution rather than the plan (attached below) proposed by the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) for the region. Council is afraid Nelson would end up paying a disproportionate share of the regional cost.
Also, council is not sure that trucking organic waste across the region is the best way to reduce greenhouse gases. The RDCK’s preferred central site for compost processing is the old landfill site near Salmo.
These ideas were aired at a Dec. 13 budget meeting at which there was a strong case made for Nelson declining to be involved in the RDCK program.
This was brought to council on Jan. 7 for a vote, but it was not voted on because councillor Brittny Anderson, who had not been at the Dec. 13 meeting, opposed this decision and convinced council that it should wait until the city attends an RDCK curbside composting workshop in February to learn more about the RDCK’s plans.
Councillor Janice Morrison, who sits on the RDCK board as the city’s representative, was also not at the Dec. 13 meeting.
The city’s finance manager Colin McClure told council that the estimated cost of involvement in the RDCK composting program is about $260,000 per year.
“There was concern about the cost-benefit,” McClure told the Star this week. “With an estimated cost based on our current [garbage and recycling] collection of close to $7,000 per week, that does not include any tipping fees if a separate bi-weekly pickup was required just for compost as currently the waste truck cannot not pick it up.”
Another concern was greenhouse gases.
“The councillors who were in attendance [on Dec. 13] were very interested in composting, but questioned the environmental advantage and efficiency of adding city-wide collection and then shipping it to Salmo,” McClure said.
“My fear personally is that it would be more symbolic than effective,” councillor Rik Logtenberg told the Star this week. “It is one of those things when we put it to the curb it is out of our face and out of our mind.
“What I want to have is a program that works, that moves the needle on diverting waste and ultimately producing a usable product as opposed to getting dumped and not doing anything productive with it.”
Mayor John Dooley told the Star that council was also concerned about Nelson being the largest financial contributor to the region-wide service because taxation for regional services is based on assessed property values. The result could be that Nelsonites pay more than their share by subsidizing the costs for the surrounding rural areas.
“The reality is that if you look at most of the services that we are involved in with the RDCK,” Dooley said, “we are the biggest contributor financially, and we need to be cognizant of that, should we decide to go into a composting program. We need to be sure we are not going into a program that we could deliver more efficiently and more cost effectively within our own boundaries.
At the Dec. 13 meeting there was discussion about setting set up sites in Nelson where people could drop off organic waste and it could by composted and used in the community.
“There is a belief among some people on council that there is a need for people to take ownership at home, in how they purchase and store foods and discard them,” Dooley said. “There is a bigger picture here that we think needs to be explored before we go in with another partner that has a completely different geographical area they will be covering. They don’t have the densification we have, the area to cover would be large, and it will be expensive. But in the municipality we have economies of scale.”
Logtenberg said he wants Nelson to lead the country in municipal composting and suggested that there is new household technology on the horizon that Nelson could supply to homeowners.
“We would be more effective if Nelson leads it, and then we take that program and spread it outward, based on proven effectiveness,” Logtenberg said.
An updated report from the RDCK on its regional compost strategy is attached below.