Dual-stream collection of recyclables in the Town of Amherst has been approved in principle by Amherst town council.

The approval was given during council’s Nov. 27 regular monthly meeting.

Council also directed staff to draft an amendment to the town’s solid waste bylaw so it reflects the change to dual-stream collection. In addition, council asked the Cumberland Joint Services Management Authority, which manages the Cumberland Central Landfill on behalf of Amherst, Oxford and Cumberland County, to host a public meeting on the subject prior to a final decision on the amendment being made by council.

Staff were also directed by council to incorporate a dual-stream collection option in the procurement documents currently being prepared for an upcoming tender call for residential solid waste collection.

Prior to making its decision, council was presented with a staff report that noted the move towards dual-stream collection, as recommended by the authority, was the direct result of a Sept. 12 fire that destroyed the recycling facility at Little Forks.

The fire forced the authority to decide how it was going to handle the recyclable material it receives on a daily basis and it decided its best option was to ship the recyclable materials to another location. As a result, the authority entered into a two-year agreement with Scotia Recycling in Kentville.

During its investigation for an alternative facility, the authority became aware that all other areas in the province were collecting recyclable material on a two-stream basis – fibre in one bag, everything else in another, the report said.

The fact Cumberland’s municipalities use a one-stream collection process increased the tipping fee the authority pays Scotia Recycling because Scotia Recycling must sort the recyclables before the material can be introduced to their recycling process, the report said. Switching to a two-stream collection should decrease the processing costs and the agreement with Scotia Recycling reflects this, the report added.

There are significant costs in shipping the recyclables to Scotia Recycling, a cost the authority can absorb until March 31, 2018, the end of their fiscal year, the report said. However, the authority does not have the financial capacity to absorb these additional costs on an ongoing basis. As a result an increase in tipping fees will be necessary.

The exact increase Amherst residents face is not known at this time, but rudimentary estimates indicate the uniform charge for solid waste for residential collection could increase between $16 and $20, the report said.

The exact amount will be impacted by several factors, including the cost of collecting the recyclables. Amherst’s contract with the private firm doing that job now is set to expire on March 31, 2018. The new contract could impact the tipping fee partly because collectors will have to reconfigure the vehicles to accept the dual streams, the report said.

The institutional, commercial and industrial sector will likely see additional costs related to two stream collection because it may require another bin to hold the second stream and potentially higher trucking costs to get the materials to Little Forks, the report added.

A longer term solution is needed to deal with the recyclables the authority receives on a daily basis, the report said. There are two options – continue shipping the material to another facility or rebuild a recycling facility at Little Forks.

The costs of rebuilding and operating a new facility at Little Forks are currently being worked on by the authority, but it is known the insurance money from the fire will not be sufficient to fully fund a new facility, and the predicted shortfall could be in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

The exact figure depends on the design of the new facility and that design will take some time to produce, the report said.

The report noted time was of the essence in making a decision on two-stream collection, partly because each municipal unit must change their bylaws to reflect the switch to dual-stream collection and the need in Amherst’s case to reflect the change in the request for proposals it will soon be issuing for residential garbage and recycling collection.

The report also said the cost of having Scotia Recycling handle the material could decrease sooner if a decision was made quickly.

Before the switch is made to dual-stream collection, the town must follow a prescribed process to change its solid waste bylaw, which includes a first reading, public notice and second reading.

The authority has also said it would hold a six-month education period before it would start enforcing the dual-stream collection process.