Northumberland County Council Digs Deep Into Waste Costs

In City Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
When faced with enquiries about Northumberland County’s upcoming hike in bag-tag prices for curbside garbage pick-up, county councillors are better able to explain where the money goes after a presentation at the January council meeting by County Waste Manager Adam McCue.

McCue had prepared a Waste Management Service Programs and Costs Overview that took as its starting point the year 2014, when the county adopted its Long Term Waste Management Master Plan with the objective of diverting 75% of residential waste from the county’s one remaining landfill in Brighton.

In the ensuing years, a number of its recommendations have been implemented. These include road-side collection of leaf and yard waste, year-round (instead of periodic) collection of household hazardous waste and electronic waste, diversion of bulky plastics, clothing and styrofoam, and the recent addition of compost collection and blue- and gray-bin recycling.

These new and enhanced programs mean an extra 5,000 additional tonnes of waste do not go to the landfill.

McCue broke down some of the numbers, such as 2,100 tonnes of leaf and yard waste diverted, 2,300 tonnes of composting, 34 tonnes of bulky plastics, 13 tonnes of clothing, six tonnes of styrofoam, 194 tonnes of household hazardous waste, 165 tonnes of e-waste and 152 tonnes of material from the new two-stream recycling system.

That all adds up to the equivalent of more keeping more than 800 garbage trucks full of waste out of the landfill each year.

McCue’s figures showed that recycling tonnage is down slightly from 2014, but there are some not-so-obvious reasons. For example, the community’s daily newspaper closed in 2017, and materials that make up certain items like aluminum cans and plastic water bottles are more lightweight these days.

But certain figures are up, like the electronic waste (240%) and tires (30%) diverted from the landfill.

Compared to the less-than-10,000 tonnes diverted from the landfill in 2014 to 14,500 tonnes in 2020, that is about a 47% increase.

McCue shared a look at the department’s operating and capital budgets.

On the operating side, they project bag tags will bring in more than one-third of their revenues, a $3.675-million share of the $8.2272-million revenue total. The other top two items are Community Recycling Centre tipping fees ($2.2618-million) and Blue Box Program industry funding ($1.250-million), with Material Recovery Facility sales of recyclables also bringing in $729,000.

Operating expenses are high, however, with the new curbside collection contract of $5.39-million taking up much of the $13.8368-million total. Other significant expenses include MRF operations ($2.5862-million), CRC operations at Bewdley, Brighton and Seymour ($1.6522-million), leachate management at the Brighton and Eagleson sites (1.07-million) and perpetual monitoring and care of the county’s eight closed landfill sites ($157,100).

The difference in operating revenues and expenses means as $5.6096-million impact on the tax levy.

The capital budget also has more expenses than revenues. While $1.84-million will come in as revenue from strategic reserves, expenses (such as debt repayment and equipment and vehicle replacement) will cost $4.1198-million, meaning a $2.2798-million impact on the tax levy.

A 50-cent increase to $4.25 per tag takes effect March 1, and all councillors agreed they are getting enquiries.

“That was a very good report – and one we can all stick into the briefcase and, when you get the questions, you can look at the numbers,” Warden Bob Crate stated.

Another important thing to remember about the increased bag-tag prices was brought up by Deputy Warden Mandy Martin, who recalled hearing during budget discussions that a failure to increase those prices meant an increase in property taxes.

Treasurer Glenn Dees had come prepared, digging out the numbers for her.

The increase revenues from the higher prices would result in $425,000 more for the waste budget. Foregoing that increase would cost householders another $9 each on their tax bills.

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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