News / Calgary

Calgary explores new ways to pay for waste collection

Landfill tipping fees expected to shrink as recycling grows

Metro File

Citizens producing less waste in the future could paradoxically lead to higher waste collection cost.

That’s according to a report going before city council’s committee on utilities and corporate services Wednesday.

The report is exploring new ways to fund waste pickup in the city for the 2019-2022 business cycle, and it recommends moving away from using property tax dollars and towards a self-sustaining model based on user fees.

Waste and Recycling Services (WRS) is currently getting 22 per cent of its funding from property tax dollars – or about $37 million annually.  

Another 68 per cent comes from fee revenue including landfill tipping fees, and the final 12 per cent comes from a gas tax grant.

Coun. Peter Demong, chair of the committee receiving the report, said it’s true that moving towards a self-sustaining funding model would amount to higher user fees, but he said it should create more efficient system.

“The gist of the argument is – it’s easier for traceability,” he said. “This is what it’s costing us – this is what we need to charge.”

Demong said if the city stopped funding the program with property tax dollars, he would push to see that $37 million go straight back to taxpayers.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation put that at about $7 per household, per month.

The report notes that the changing ways the city processes garbage will change the cost of doing that work.  

“As diversion programs are expanded and become more complex, operating costs could also increase,” reads the report.

The report notes that tipping fees at the landfill are not a sustainable way to fund the program as more waste is diverted to recycling.

At the same time, the report says the city is projecting less waste as consumers change their habits, and retailers reduce the amount of packaging material on goods. They warn that a sudden drop in waste could lead to higher operating costs. .

Coun. Demong isn’t as concerned about that scenario. He said as the city continues to grow in population, the overall waste produced will keep that number in check.