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North Cowichan considers moving forward with automated garbage pick up

Garbage fees could increase again in 2023, from $125 per year to $183, if plan approved
North Cowichan considering moving forward with plan to transition to automated garbage pick up. (Citizen file photo)

Garbage fees in North Cowichan could increase again in 2023, from $125 per year to $183, as the municipality attempts to move forward with its plan to transition to automated garbage collection by 2025.

The increase in fees would help pay for the purchase of four automated trucks, with one being electric, and up to 21,800 100-litre bins for organics and garbage bins for residential homes in the municipality that will be needed for the transition if council decides to move forward with the plan.


But Coun. Bruce Findlay said at the council meeting on Jan. 18 that he wondered if it wouldn’t be cheaper and more prudent to buy the new trucks in increments rather than all at once, and questioned whether the municipality should be ordering a new and more expensive electric garbage truck at this time.

An electric truck costs $910,000 compared with $550,000 for a diesel one, but staff maintain there will be operational savings and grant incentives with an electric truck.

Findlay said, according to the satisfaction survey of North Cowichan residents, taxes were rated as the biggest issue among 24 per cent of the respondents, while climate action was just 10 per cent.

“The satisfaction of curbside pick up on the survey was 91 per cent, and that was on manual pick up,” Findlay said.

“Electrifying a garbage truck as a test or a back up is something I’m completely in disagreement with. The staff report said they have them in Squamish, but there’s not enough history on the electric vehicles there. My concern, once again, is taxes as 24 per cent of people said it was their biggest issue.”

Coun. Mike Caljouw also said purchasing an electric truck is something North Cowichan should look at down the road when the technology is more proven.

“I’m all for an automated system myself, but maybe we should do this in increments and not all at once,” he said.

Discussion on the issue came to an end at the meeting until the next council meeting on Feb. 1 so that staff can prepare a report on the costs and issues around using smaller 80-litre bins instead of the 100-litre ones that were planned.


The previous council decided to begin moving forward with the implementation plan after a survey was completed by more than 2,300 residents, with 66 per cent indicating they are in favour of an automated garbage pick-up system, which would allow the truck drivers to collect the garbage bins from inside the cab using a fully automated arm that tips into the truck hopper.

Residents in favour identified workers’ safety (since 2018, there have been seven WorkSafeBC claims resulting in 216 lost days through short-term disability using the manual system), larger carts, and better mobility as their justification.

Residents who did not favour the automated system identified the increased costs, difficulty of cart storage, and mobility/accessibility challenges as the main reasons they were opposed.

Garbage fees already rose from $111 a year to $125 in 2022 to cover the increased cost of leasing collection trucks and to fund the implementation plan to switch to automated garbage collection.

The four new trucks, which would replace the four aging manual garbage trucks the municipality currently uses for the curbside collection of residential garbage and organics, would be ordered this year at a total cost of $2,312,000 if council approves.


The current garbage trucks were already scheduled to be replaced over the next four years.

The bins, projected to cost $981,000, would be ordered in 2024 and the plan is to have automated garbage pick up in place in North Cowichan by 2025.

Phase two of the project to transition to the new service would be the automated collection of recycling material.

The timing of this phase is after the end of the current contract in 2024, but likely not until 2026 at the earliest.

Staff estimate the cost for phase 2 of the service would see households paying $210 for garbage pick up per year.

This cost includes an additional automated truck bringing the total to five, another staff position bringing the total to four, and 11,800 240-litre recycle carts.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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