Nelson residents will have a curbside composting program by 2022 after city council agreed in principle to a regional plan at a contentious meeting Monday night.
The Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) previously asked council to decide on joining its organic waste diversion plan prior to Friday in order to apply for a provincial-federal grant that will cover two-thirds of the cost of a new composting facility at the former Salmo landfill site.
Nelson meanwhile will be responsible for the cost and operation of curbside collection as well as transportation to the new facility. It’s not yet clear what those costs will be.
Councillors agreed to the plan, but only after over two hours of heated debate and with several caveats.
Those include guarantees that the RDCK’s side of the program is self-funded; that tipping fees for users increase at the Grohman Narrows transfer station; that incentives for rural residents are also available in Nelson; and that municipal waste tipping fees fund the program for rural residents rather than taxation.
Councillors Brittny Anderson, Keith Page, Jesse Woodward and Rik Logtenberg voted in favour of the RDCK’s plan. Councillor Janice Morrison requested her vote in opposition be noted, while Mayor John Dooley and councillor Cal Renwick also spoke against the motion.
Anderson, the main proponent of the RDCK’s plan, said it will be a key part of the city reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.
“I think this was a really big win for the environment today and I know our staff are going to work really hard to make sure it is as cost effective as possible,” said Anderson. “There was enough planning that went into this and we’re going to see a successful plan in 2022.”
Council also passed a motion introduced by Morrison that the city explore how residents could opt out of the program in favour of an approved alternate composting strategy, the details of which have yet to be determined.
Concerns raised by Dooley and Morrison included the service’s cost (which is unknown), the lack of regional incentives for Nelson residents (which was resolved by the passed motion), the pressure council was under to approve the plan prior to the grant deadline, and the use of the Salmo landfill instead of the Ootischenia site.
Currently Nelson residents pay $40 per single-family household for curbside garbage pickup as well as $1.50 per bag tag, while Recycling BC pays the city for blue-bag collection. Anderson downplayed questions about the cost of adding composting pickup to that service.
“We can manage the costs of this program so the residents and taxpayers can get the best service they can for a really good value and low taxation,” she said. “We certainly don’t want to see this being a program that overburdens the taxpayer.”
The RDCK’s plan was set to move forward even without Nelson’s participation. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and Creston previously signed up, while Castlegar city council also agreed to it Monday night.
The urgency to lower GHG emissions, which took priority over cost to residents, was brought up by several councillors during the debate.
Dooley said he preferred developing a made-in-Nelson composting program, but in the end councillors narrowly opted to follow the RDCK’s lead.
“I think with these things we need to be really moving ahead and focused on how we’re reducing our GHG emissions, how we’re mitigating climate change and then adapting,” said Anderson.
“I think these are things we want to move quickly on. Otherwise we can drag our feet and kick the can down the road for years.”