With its landfill stressed by construction products that continue to drive waste in the wrong direction, the Capital Regional District aims to ban some recyclable items from the dump.
The CRD wants to reduce the region’s disposal rate to 250 kilograms per capita by 2030, but that figure was still rising in 2022 – largely due to wood and construction waste being landfilled.
To reverse that trend, the CRD is proposing banning clean, treated and salvageable wood, plus asphalt roofing and shingles and carpet from Hartland landfill as of next January. Those items were chosen after a consultant identified how robust reuse and recycling markets are already available for them.
Wood and wood products are now responsible for the largest single share of the CRD’s overall waste. Those along with non-wood construction and demolition waste account for a third of the region’s waste, but also present the greatest diversion potential.
The bans would also be teamed with raising tipping fees for recyclable construction and demolition waste after CRD rates have fallen below those in other Island and Lower Mainland jurisdictions. The bans and new fees are expected to keep 40,500 tonnes out of the dump each year should the CRD adopt both proposals.
Unsorted renovation and demolition landfill loads fly against the CRD’s principles and would therefore face a double tipping fee rate of $300/tonne, which aims to incentivize haulers to separate materials that could be repurposed.
Modernizing fees sends clear price signals to the market and would allow people to understand the financial benefit of diverting material, Russ Smith, the CRD’s senior manager of environmental resource management, said at an April committee meeting. He added not updating those rates would signal that it’s okay to throw stuff out in the capital region.
The CRD’s waste consultant said the region continuing to be the lowest-cost landfilling option would not reflect the costs of processing and disposal.
“Without incentives to source separate materials within the mixed general refuse stream that are suitable for reuse, recycling or recovery will continue to be landfilled,” the consultant said.
The Victoria Residential Builders Association said its members are already trying to recycle construction material and reduce waste, but it would like to see a better understanding of how the industry operates. Local municipalities need to work closely with builders to ensure the CRD’s already high housing costs don’t increase further, the association’s executive director Casey Edge said.
“Whenever you put in a restriction of any kind you’re going to add to the cost of the home,” he said, adding he hopes to see builders who are recycling more get incentives like discounted permit fees.
When Victoria brought in its deconstruction bylaw, Edge said the city wasn’t in tune with what could be recycled and he still warns of how it could significantly add labour costs. He said depots are expanding what they’ll accept – giving the example of a Victoria facility now taking wood with nails, hinges or handles – but he wonders if the CRD will provide more places to stockpile recyclable wood.
“If not, where is it going to go? So, you can create bottlenecks without understanding the capacity for the recycling industry or the home building industry,” he said, adding he doesn’t feel like governments are listening to the on-the-ground reality of construction.
“How to build a home in the marketplace is what our builders know and the reality is the bureaucrats don’t.”
The deconstruction company Unbuilders said policymakers need to take a more holistic view of the cost of construction waste.
Adam Corneil, the founder of Unbuilders, wants a study into taxpayer costs of expanding landfills across Canada, which he called extremely expensive due to land costs and the value that’s lost from the space just occupying garbage.
During a full-on deconstruction project, Unbuilders can divert upwards of 90 per cent of a building from the dump. While there are generally more upfront costs, Corneil said expenses are coming in line with demolition and policymakers can further alleviate cost pressures – while meeting waste and housing goals – by expediting building permits for projects that go with deconstruction.
Unbuilders also donates salvaged materials to non-profits building affordable housing and it’s found buildings include much more asbestos than what was expected – meaning communities are facing the cost of exposure if those sites are demolished, Corneil said.
“There are big financial costs that deconstruction could limit.”