RDN looking to automate waste collection by 2020

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, November 28 2018

The Regional District of Nanaimo is contemplating bringing in automated waste collection - for all areas of the RDN currently receiving waste pickup, including Gabriola.

The current contract for waste collection expires in March of 2020.

As part of looking at the next ten year contract, the RDN solid waste team says that is the right time to make the shift to automated collection- something the City of Nanaimo rolled out this past spring and summer.

Larry Gardner, Manager of Solid Waste Services for the RDN said the move to automation is something the entire industry is shifting towards.

“I do believe over time, that’s the way the industry is going, across the board, I do think in future years, I think it’s a matter of time, the way the trend is going where you won’t see manual collection further into the future.”

While there is an initial lower cost in sticking with manual collection (workers emptying bins into the collection trucks by hand), there is a cost implication to staying with that - as fewer workers are injured in an automated system.

“One of the significant pieces is there’s definitely much higher safety for workers with an automated system.”

Even though the RDN uses a contractor for collection, there was a strong sentiment from a recent public survey that as a local government, where the RDN has the ability to improve worker safety, that has a high value to residents.

“More and more jurisdictions are going to automated collection, and a huge driver is worker safety.”

The direction from the RDN Board is for there to be a request-for-proposal (FRP) for an automated collection service.

One of the options being considered is to not just collect food waste in the green bins, but also yard and garden waste.

Gardner said in the community feedback, the demand for such a service was higher in the urban compared to rural areas.

“That’s one of the challenges for providing services for the masses.”

Several options are being considered, including potentially having a seperate collection specific to yard and garden waste.

The smallest bin possible for the automated system is 80L in size - most homes have a 100L bin for their ‘garbage’ can.

Concerns have been raised on whether the larger options for automation are viable to move for more senior members of the public, or for people with longer driveways.

The most common sizes for automation are 100L and 120L bins.

Gardner says all the bins have wheels on them.

For some people - it may be they choose to keep their bins closer to the end of their driveways.

The 2019 rates, still within the existing contracts, are $154 per household.

Gardner said regardless of what is done in the new contract, “we’d see a significant increase in cost, because we’re getting to the end of a ten year contract and the fleet to provide that service is getting long in the tooth.”

“The cost to replace any system will need to provide new assets. 

“We’ve seen an increase of costs of equipment over ten years. The next ten years will see a bump regardless.”

Based on the RDN’s understanding of costs and looking at other jurisdictions - Gardner says they are estimating collection fees will be between $200 and $250 a year for the automated pickup.

If the RDN stayed with manual pickup, collection costs would be $170 a year.

This includes the cost of the bins.

“Our intention, depending on RFPs, the bins would be owned by the contractor. Our thought is if they own them, they care for them better in the collection cycles.”

As for the schedule, the intent is to keep it the same as now - with Area B residents getting food waste picked up every week and the recycling alternating with garbage over a two week period.

With regards to Commercial and for Multi-Family households, the RDN is not making any changes to how those are picked up.

Gardner said there are discussions with the Ministry of Environment on what can be done to serve those two sectors - a report is expected sometime in the spring, which will coincide with the RFP for the new residential contract being prepared for release.