As city council considers expanding its compost collection program, it’s also being called on to consider measures that would keep bears out of organics.
Heather Ashthorn, WildWise Yukon’s executive director, along with local residents Elaine Carlyle and Marianne Darragh, made presentations at Monday evening’s council meeting.
They called for the measures before adopting a new Waste Management Bylaw that would make compost collection a mandatory part of waste collection for the food service sector and then multi-residential developments.
Ashthorn pointed to the recent scan WildWise had done of efforts in other jurisdictions.
Some have specific bylaws around bear attractants, Ashthorn said, while others have portions of their waste management bylaws that address the issue.
Whitehorse’s current Waste Management Bylaw states that no one can put waste out in a way that attracts wildlife.
However, as Ashthorn said, there’s a bit of a contradiction in that as the current compost carts the city provides to homes are not secured – and thus can be attractants to bears.
The city’s move to greater food security – which allows for chicken coops and beehives, among other initiatives – is largely a positive for the city, she added. But without certain measures, that can attract bears to residential properties, she noted.
Ashthorn pointed out it’s often a combination of measures – enforcement, education and so on – that has proved the most successful in preventing wildlife/human conflicts in other jurisdictions.
Ashthorn stated more than 60 bears were killed last year as a result of human/bear conflicts.
She also emphasized it doesn’t represent the entire picture, including bears that were relocated, and those conflicts that go unreported.
“We need to look at what the problem is,” Ashthorn said.
Carlyle, meanwhile, appeared before council a number of times calling for changes to prevent bears from getting into waste.
If the city is planning to expand its organics collection, she argued Monday, the conventional green carts the city currently uses may be a bad idea.
Carlyle said the city should consider purchasing bear-proof carts for the expanded program and defer a decision on the waste management bylaw until a council and senior management meeting to look at bear/human conflicts is held.
Darragh also took issue with previous points made by the city that two-thirds of bear/human conflicts happen in country residential area, where the city doesn’t offer waste collection.
“I don’t think you can look at it that way,” Darragh said, pointing out that bears travel among various neighbourhoods.
If there’s a problem in a country residential neighbourhood, she added, there could well be a problem in more urban neighbourhoods.
Darragh also highlighted the impact tipping fees at the landfill have on country residential residents.
She noted it’s cheaper to bring a larger load of waste to the landfill than to make several small trips where tipping fees have to be paid each time.
That results in residents of country residential neighbourhoods storing their waste – which may have attractants for a longer time and potentially lure wildlife to the property.
The proposed updated Waste Management Bylaw makes no changes to dealing with wildlife attractants.
Rather, it focuses on the proposed change to organics collection following the pilot programs for some in the food service industry and multi-residential properties.
Implementation of the expanded program would begin in January 2019 and continue through four stages, with the final stage being multi-residential homes in January 2020.
The program expansion would also mean changes to the compost facility and more costs to the city that would then be passed on to all who have waste that ends up in the landfill.
“Construction of a hard-surfaced processing facility for $2.73 million recommended,” Geoff Quinsey, the city’s manager of water and waste, said in his report to council.
“It will improve regulatory compliance and has a favourable pay-back relative to the operating cost increase required if the processing facility is not improved.
“$15,000 is proposed in 2019 for apartment totes (the kitchen compost bins that go to each household) for multi-residential customers,” Quinsey reported.
“The end of the pilot project will increase monthly commercial rates for weekly collection from $25 to $35 per cart, and $150 to $250 for large bins.
“Tipping fees will increase by $3/tonne ($101.50 to $104.50) to subsidize organics processing.
The residential utility rate will rise by $1.60/month from $11.05 to $12.65. This addresses the tipping fees increase; new diversion programming to align with the education and enforcement of the commercial sector; and re-allotment of some of the organics processing subsidy from residential to the commercial sector to align the two programs.”
The expanded program will come with higher costs to ratepayers. But Quinsey pointed out there could be substantial costs to deal with leachate and methane emissions if organics are not diverted.
A leachate collection and treatment system could cost approximately $3.3 million in capital expenses plus the ongoing costs to operate it.
Under questioning by council members, Quinsey confirmed that a council and senior management session to look at wildlife/human conflicts is being scheduled.
There are no plans at this time, however, to develop a bylaw around dealing with wildlife attractants.
Quinsey also noted that bear-proof carts could be a possibility for the city’s compost collection program – but there would likely be added costs.
Council will vote next week on whether to move forward with he proposed waste management bylaw along with the accompanying fees.
Coun. Samson Hartland was absent from Monday night’s meeting.