The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George is contemplating a $6 user fee for residents dropping off small loads of garbage at the Foothills Boulevard Regional Landfill starting July 1.
Everyone loves the idea of user fees, so long as that user is someone else. When "you" put the "u" in user fee, well, suddenly it doesn't seem so fair.
In this case, nothing could be further from the truth.
Similar fees are already in place at the Vanway and Quinn Street transfer stations. Residents of the Bowl, as well as College Heights, Beaverly and further on along Highway 16 West pay the fee so they don't have to drive all the way up Foothills Boulevard to dispose of garbage they can't get into the garbage cans. It seems reasonable that the people who contribute most to the landfill need to pay more for garbage disposal.
That's already the case for city residents, who pay based on the size of their garbage cans.
In the meantime, residents of the Hart and Salmon Valley have enjoyed free use of the landfill that happens to be near their neighbourhood for free.
Hardly seems fair.
But fairness isn't the only issue at hand.
If the regional district doesn't increase user fees at the landfill site, the current model predicts a funding shortfall of $21.4 million over the next 10 years, not out of the operations budget, but out of money that needs to be set aside to meet government regulations when the landfill is eventually closed and the site is remediated.
This is important because our children will already have to pay enough for the mess we're leaving behind in the finances of the provincial and federal government, not to mention atmospheric pollution and greenhouses gases. For many of us, our relationship with our garbage ends when we put it to the curb or bring it to the landfill but that's not how it really works. Much of what we throw out will continue to exist long after we do not, so there needs to be a long-term plan in place to make sure those items don't eventually contaminate our land and water.
But it will take more than adding the user fee to the landfill for small loads to make up that projected shortfall.
Increasing the tipping fee from $57 per tonne up to as high as $90 per tonne over the next seven years could also be implemented. Finally, regional district directors could also gradually increase the tax levy, making sure all residents share equally in the care and maintenance of the landfill.
Raising the tax on everyone and avoiding the landfill user fee could help avoid a common problem seen around landfills as soon as people find out they have to pay to dump the garbage in the back of their truck. As several responses made to the story on our website quickly pointed out, the illegal dumping will go up right away. One person pointed out that illegal dumping already happens on his road when the landfill is closed, adding that lineups will get longer at the landfill once everyone has to stop and fish money out of their pockets to pay the attendant.
Illegal dumping is a problem in every community, thanks to people unwillingly to pay for the disposal of their garbage, their old fridges and freezers, and anything else they think they shouldn't have to pay for. Fortunately, some of these people are so stupid that they also dump some garbage that includes their personal mail, with their names and address on it.
For the rest, it will take the vigilance of all of us to report people who think the rules don't apply to them when it comes to disposing their trash.