By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 19, 2020.
Lethbridge Transparency Council
Is it time to recycle the recycling program?
The Lethbridge Transparency Council (LTC) took a critical look at the City-operated “Curbside Recycling Program” (CRP). The program was introduced in the City of Lethbridge on May 1, 2019. >We found that, overall, the CRP has successes but not in a positive way for the approximately 38,000 residential households who pay the monthly utility bills! > >
Playing Monopoly – In just over two years, the CRP has successfully championed in shutting down two private curbside recycling companies (E-Futures and The Recycle Bin) and seriously impacted the operations of a third, Residential Recycle. >
It’s only money, right? The CRP has also been successful in raising the rates for recycling from initially $7 per household to now $7.50 per household. >Assuming we have approximately 38,000 residences, the CRP brought in a monthly $266,000 and with the additional 50-cent increase, another $19,000 for a total of $285,000 monthly. >There is no guarantee that the monthly increases will end. >Since garbage collection has been dropped on recycle days, why were there any fee increases at all? >
Hiding in plain sight – The City has also been successful in “hiding” the increased fee increases from the Lethbridge residents, as the utility bills have been modified and no longer itemize the actual recycling assessments, rather group the amount into one amount displayed on your monthly utilities bill as “Waste Services.”
The City refused to provide credible data – The Lethbridge Transparency Council, unfortunately, experienced frustration and no co-operation from City officials during our investigation and analysis of the CRP. Specific information from the City was not forthcoming, particularly with respect to questions as to who is purchasing the City recycled material(s); what the terms of purchase and/or contacts are and whether all recycled materials are marketed. >We therefore submitted a formal “Freedom of Information Request” to the City. >Of our 16 specific questions, the City answered a mere six of our questions and 10 responses to our questions were “Redacted” (not responded to). Is six out of 16 a passing grade? >Does it suggest our City is proceeding “In the dark” without real information? Or is the information damaging to a pet project? >We have to wonder!
City deaf to citizen concerns – It is prudent for us to note that in 2016 and 2017 the “Lethbridge Committee for Government Affairs” lobbied city council to reconsider their plans to initiate City-operated, curbside recycling. > This included a massive signature petition along with meetings and submissions to city council. >City council refused to reconsider their decision and forged ahead with the CRP. > >
In 2017 residents of the city asked the City to include a “plebiscite” to determine the support for CRP along with ballots during the 2017 civic election. This was denied by city council and city council forged ahead with the CRP.
Paying millions for nothing more and certainly less – Now, as a short time period has passed and the CRP has been in operation, our data clearly indicates that the expensive prognosis report of the Florida-based Kessler Consulting Inc. (which the City of Lethbridge heavily relied upon) is far from accurate. >The tonnes of recycled material collected at the three City recycle stations along with the CRP is not significantly more that the tonnes of recycled material collected prior to the introduction of the City-operated curbside recycling. >In fact, with consideration to the recycle material previously collected by private curbside recycle operators, the tonnes now by the City may actually be less. And any possible gains are also at the cost to a loss of weekly garbage pickup É don’t ever miss a garbage pickup or you may have in-bin composting! >
Today is not yesterday – Recycling of materials has changed dramatically, and some of the markets have disappeared. >China, the major purchaser of recycled plastics, now does not import recycled plastics. There is absolutely no market for glass and cardboard, paper markets are now requiring specific specifications of products with zero contamination. > >
Never too late to say goodbye – Was the implementation of City-operated curbside recycling a prudent move by Lethbridge City Council? The consensus of the Lethbridge Transparency Council is “No!” > >
Is it too late to turn back? >Once again, “No!” >We could pattern after Lacombe and Medicine Hat who have abandoned their City-operated curbside recycling due to cost and inefficiency. > >