Metro Vancouver wants the province to make furniture retailers add a recycling fee to the price of each mattress or couch they sell.
Local cities say a fee at the point of purchase is needed to battle the illegal dumping of mattresses since the regional district banned them from landfills and started charging a $20 fee to recycle the ones that arrive at transfer stations for disposal.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan blames Metro staff for putting the ban and disposal fee in place in January of 2011 without giving enough thought to the unintended consequences.
He said residents who need to get rid of old mattresses dump them to avoid paying the $20 and cities end up paying their crews to clean up the mess.
“The reality is they’re going to dump it in laneways and ravines and anywhere they can,” said Corrigan, who raised the issue at a meeting of Metro’s Zero Waste committee Wednesday.
“You’ve just cost us a whole bunch of money,” he told Metro managers, adding Burnaby also has to pay a recycling fee for each recovered mattress city crews take to recyclers.
“It’s not chump change.”
It’s a similar story in Surrey, where city officials say illegal dumping of mattresses skyrocketed from about 10 a week to more than 80 after Metro introduced the $20 fee.
It became so cumbersome, Surrey now offers to pick up mattresses from homes as part of the city’s large item pick up program, for absolutely no cost to the homeowner. Residents can call 604-635-5478 to have large items picked up.
“It costs us a lot more, as you would imagine, to pick up a mattress that’s all waterlogged at the bottom of a ditch than to have a truck go around and pick them up in a scheduled fashion,” said Vincent Lalonde, Surrey’s General Manager of Engineering.
The illegal dumping is still prevalent, with an average of 43 mattresses still being found abandoned every week in Surrey.
Three local recyclers processed more than 100,000 old mattresses last year that were diverted to them after the new regulations kicked in.
Metro solid waste department manager Paul Henderson said the region has previously asked the provincial government to consider imposing a recycling fee on new mattresses and large furniture items such as couches.
The charge would eliminate the need for a disposal fee and hopefully end most of the illegal dumping.
He said it would follow in line with B.C.’s other product stewardship programs that impose fees to ensure recycling of home electronics and old tires.
Metro staff say they’ve been told the province is strongly considering a mattress disposal fee but had given no signal of when it might be implemented.
The committee voted to have the Metro board endorse an advance recycling fee for mattresses and other large furniture items.
Henderson described the mattress ban as a “learning opportunity” for regional district staff, who he said will carefully consider the lessons learned before implementing more planned disposal bans on organics and wood in the future.
– with files from Kevin Diakiw