Understanding Bylaw 280: Vancouver Sun

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Metro Vancouver’s Bylaw 280 will help keep recyclables and organics out of the garbage.

Garbage is as complex as it is smelly.

Waste management is a multimillion-dollar industry involving many players from government and private businesses, all with their own priorities and interests, so no wonder it’s controversial.

Strengthening the Rules

Metro Vancouver waiting for the Minister of Environment to consider Bylaw 280 – new rules that will stop garbage disposal companies from hauling waste to transfer stations and landfills in other jurisdictions, avoiding disposal bans that encourage recycling and avoiding paying their fair share of the cost of managing waste in the region.

Why do we need a new bylaw? Because there are currently no rules preventing garbage disposal companies from hauling the garbage they collect from commercial and multi-family customers to neighbouring jurisdictions where there are no disposal bans in place and there are cheap disposal costs, thereby undercutting their competitors, making disposal more expensive for everyone else in the region, and undermining the integrity of recycling and composting systems in Metro Vancouver.

Bylaw 280 and Composting

Bylaw 280 is especially crucial for the upcoming organics disposal ban. Without it, there will be little incentive for haulers to separate out organics for recycling, since they’ll be able to dump compost-rich garbage in cheap landfills.

A September 20 article in the Vancouver Sun does a good job of outlining the complexities of waste disposal. On one hand, Metro Vancouver, working to reduce the amount of recyclables and organics disposed and on the other hand garbage disposal companies are looking for the cheapest way to dump garbage.

[An] increasing number of waste companies are choosing to haul outside the region to private waste-transfer stations in Abbotsford, where their trash is transferred to rail facilities in Sumas, Wash., and hauled to a private landfill…

These companies are drawn mainly by cheaper tipping fees — an estimated $70 a tonne in Abbotsford versus $108 in Metro Vancouver. In the process, they also skirt the surcharge fines designed to encourage recycling, Metro Vancouver asserts.

One of the goals of Bylaw 280 is to make sure banned materials stay out of the garbage:

Metro Vancouver’s latest waste composition report in 2013 found that compostable organics comprised 36.2 per cent of trash, followed by plastics at 14.4 per cent, and paper at 13.6 per cent.


The list of prohibited items has grown steadily since 1997, and also includes paint, gypsum, oil, tires, metal appliances, mattresses, plastic, paper, and blue-box recyclables, with organics expected to be included in 2015.

More and more garbage is shipped outside of the region every year:

Metro Vancouver estimates about 160,000 tonnes of waste will be shipped south through Abbotsford into Washington in 2014 — about 100,000 tonnes of that, or 10,000 truck loads, from Metro Vancouver, up from 50,000 tonnes in 2012. This represents about 20 per cent of the commercial trash collected in the region this year and a loss of about $11 million in tipping fees, the region estimates.

“It’s getting worse each year,” [Metro Vancouver’s general manager of solid waste services Paul Henderson] said. “It’s putting our entire sold-waste management plan in jeopardy.”

Why should I care about Bylaw 280?

Metro Vancouver residents and businesses are close to realizing a robust waste system based on effective source separation, recycling and composting. We already recycle more than 58% of our waste, and we can reach 80% recycling by 2020. Bylaw 280 gives us the tools we need achieve our ambitious recycling and composting goals.

Paul Richard, chair of environmental protection technology at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, has written Polak in support of the bylaw, warning that “the full integrity of the recycling system, from source separation, producer responsibility, organics collection, and other initiatives” stands to be compromised.

Read the full Vancouver Sun article:

Metro fines trash haulers more than $450,000 for banned recyclables

More information on Bylaw 280: