St. Albert, an Edmonton, Alberta suburb with a population of 50,000, has been on the forefront for two years with the first full user-pay system in Western Canada.
On July 1, 1996 a variable rate volume subscription program was implemented. By the end of 1997, St. Albert reported a 40 per cent waste reduction rate based on 342 kilograms of garbage per capita landfilled in 1988 compared with 205 kilograms per capita landfilled in 1997.
Residents can subscribe to several options. They can select a one, two, or three-can set weekly volume, limit themselves to the selected volumes, and pay the corresponding rate on their utility bill. If the subscribed limit is exceeded, a separately purchased “Extra Refuse” sticker (worth $1.50) must be affixed to a standard bag. Systems of this nature usually involve only the use of cans for the subscribed volume of refuse. However, St. Albert has introduced a “two-bag” equivalency for each subscription level which gives residents an option to use bags rather than cans.
Another option available to those residing in neighborhoods serviced by contractor is the use of garbage carts for automated collection. The three sizes are 120, 240, and 360 litres (30, 60, and 90 U.S. gallons). The varied subscription of cans, bags, or carts results in a flexible system.
To complement this system, a yard waste collection program was introduced. Collection of compostables from 96-gallon green carts occurs at no charge and residents arrange to purchase or rent specified carts for use during the growing season (from the end of April to the end of October). A compost depot operates at no charge for residents and in-yard composting is encouraged as another alternative. Because of increasing success in the diverting of yard trimmings, the city recently executed an agreement with a contractor to handle and compost the material for the next five years. This is being done on a regional basis and will benefit nearby communities as they deal with yard waste recycling.
In 1996, St. Albert’s waste management operating budget was $1.185-million. Financing of this budget was from the following sources: 71 per cent user fees, one per cent extra refuse stickers, 3 per cent recycling revenues, and 25 per cent mill rate. However, in the first full year of user-pay (1997), the waste management system was financed entirely by user fees and extra garbage tags. In fact, recycling revenues created a year-end surplus of $77,000.
Len Douziech is an environmental project coordinator for the City of St. Albert, Alberta.