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North Cowichan takes another step forward toward automated-garbage pick up

Plans are for service to be in place by 2025
North Cowichan moving forward with plan to transition to automated garbage pick up. (Citizen file photo)

North Cowichan will move forward with its plan to transition to automated garbage collection by 2025, council decided at its meeting on Feb. 1.

That means garbage fees in the municipality will increase from $125 to $183 per year in 2023 as North Cowichan will purchase four fully automated garbage trucks, with one being electric.

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 will replace the four aging manual garbage trucks the municipality currently uses for the curbside collection of residential garbage and organics, will be ordered this year at a total cost of $2,312,000.

Residents will be provided with a choice of using waste-cart sizes that are 80 litres, 120 litres or 240 litres on a size-based pricing structure to provide homeowners with a financial incentive to opt for the smallest 80-litre option.

Coun. Christopher Justice, who introduced the motion to offer a choice in cart sizes, successfully suggested that residents will pay more for the larger sized carts with the goal of reducing the amount of garbage waste in North Cowichan, with the prices to be determined at a later date.

He said he doesn’t believe that smaller households and those making an effort to reduce the amount of garbage they produce should have to subsidize large garbage producers.

Coun. Bruce Findlay said he would rather see garbage and organics collection outsourced to a contractor.

He said an analysis recently conducted by the municipality on outsourcing the service concluded that contracting out the service or keeping it in-house would cost almost the same.


“We’re going to spend about $5 million for the trucks and the carts that will come from our reserves and funding from North Cowichan’s [Climate Action and Energy Plan] funding,” Findlay said.

“I would much rather vote to outsource this and utilize those funds for future purposes, like fire trucks. If the cost is going to be the same to the public and we don’t have those up-front capital costs, I think it would be a lot more appealing to our taxpayers.”

Shawn Cator, North Cowichan’s director of operations, said that when a service is outsourced to a contractor, the contractor will purchase all that is needed to conduct the service.

“All the same costs are still there, but we’ll be paying for them over 10 years,” he said.

CAO Ted Swabey added that a contractor would have language in their contract on how they’ll operate, and that’s one of the advantages of keeping the service in-house.

“With in-house, we’re in control of our trucks, our people, how we pick up and how we respond to problems on the route,” he said.


Council decided to move forward with the plans for automation, with Findlay and Coun. Tek Manhas, who also said he would prefer to have the service contracted out, opposed.

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.

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 estimated in a report that 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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