A new regional solid-waste management plan for the Cowichan Valley Regional District is one step closer to reality.
The majority of the directors on the regional services committee voted for it, and it was approved later by the CVRD board, but only after they were assured that many aspects of its implementation, including whether to allow private waste-disposal companies to operate in the district, would be decided at a later date, and only after full public consultations.
The plan, which was tabled at the RSC meeting on Oct. 24 and approved at the board meeting later that day, sets out new provincially mandated waste-reduction targets for the region and proposes strategies for managing municipal solid waste over the next 10 years, with a long-term vision of 25 years.
But many delegations who spoke to the board raised concerns with the plan, particularly residents from the district’s south end that are being serviced by P.A.N. Disposal, a family owned and operated waste disposal company that has been operating in Shawnigan Lake, Cobble Hill and Mill Bay since 1980.
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Garry Horwood, speaking on behalf of the Shawnigan Residents Association, asked that the vote be delayed until the new board of directors is sworn in, and that Shawnigan Lake be left out of the plan.
“This is a major decision, requiring major money and major changes for many of our citizens,” Horwood said.
“There’s been no meaningful or timely discussions with many of our local residents. This mandatory garbage pick up will be controlled by the CVRD and all residents will pay the same. But about 50 per cent of the population in the area are only here in the summers, and don’t want this change.”
Another speaker said the community in the south end supports each other, and their local businesses.
“I’m upset that we may lose one of our home-grown businesses,” she said.
Tamara Shulman, from the Vancouver-based Tetra Tech consulting firm that has been working with the district on the project, said the plan in its current form merely speaks in broad terms as to what needs to be done to meet new provincial standards.
She said whether local waste-disposal companies would be allowed to continue to operate, and on what terms, in areas of the district would be further explored at a later date.
“Right now, this is about setting directions,” Shulman said.
“There would be challenges to allowing private firms to operate, but we’ll sort that out at a later stage.”
Asked if Shawnigan Lake can be exempt from the plan, Tauseef Waraich, the CVRD’s manager of recycling and waste management, said the plan is intended to be regional, dealing with overall service delivery and goals, and there could be implications if any changes like that were made.
“We would need to see what delivery models are available,” he said.
A Planning Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from the public, industry, businesses, the non-profit sector, Cowichan Tribes and government, has met numerous times since March to discuss gaps within the current waste management system and ways to improve the region’s waste diversion.
Shulman said more than 20,000 people in the district were involved in the public consultation process through online surveys and other means.
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Strategies that were recommended by the PAC looked at ways to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, focusing on key areas such as reducing food waste, and important initiatives like combating illegal dumping.
Andrea Davis, owner of P.A.N Disposal, had said in a previous interview that she believes that the update to the waste management plan could put P.A.N. out of business.
She said she fears the province is encouraging the CVRD to consider putting all waste services in its electoral areas to tender for businesses to bid on.
“We’ve invested in this area and provide a flexible service that meets the needs of our customers,” she said in the interview.
“With our service, people pay for the disposal of the waste they create so many people are diligent and don’t create a lot. Under a universal system, everyone would pay the same, so those who create less waste would be unfairly subsidizing those who create more.”