Vancouver Bans Disposal of Paper Products

When a city sets a goal to reduce garbage disposal by 50 percent by 2000, it has to create incentives to encourage recycling.

That's what the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) - which serves 1.9 million residents and 70,000 businesses in British Columbia, Canada - has done by banning the disposal of several paper products at landfills and incinerators.

Levying a 50 percent surcharge to the district's tipping fee for any load that includes more than 10 percent corrugated cardboard, the district banned the disposal of corrugated cardboard in 1997. On May 1, 1999, the district added newspaper and office paper to the ban, expanding the 50 percent surcharge to include all three paper products. Today, haulers that violate the ban are charged $32.50 per metric ton in addition to the $65 per ton tipping fee.

Although the surcharge is levied against haulers, it is expected to discourage businesses and residents from throwing away paper products because haulers would have to raise their prices if the surcharges become a problem for them.

"What we have is an added financial incentive for people not to throw paper in the garbage," says Andrew Marr, senior project engineer for the district's solid waste and sewer planning department.

Although it's too early to measure the impact of the latest ban, Marr says the district has seen a big drop in the disposal of corrugated cardboard since it was prohibited in 1997. Corrugated cardboard represented 7.2 percent of the waste stream prior to the ban, but it fell to 2.6 percent of the waste stream by January 1, 1998.

Paper products represent 33 percent of the garbage flow by weight, and more than 50 percent by volume, Marr says.

"The most effective way to [reach our waste reduction goal] was to go after the large, bulky items that are a big percentage of the waste stream." Marr says. "Paper products are a big part of the garbage flow. It made sense to focus on paper."

The GVRD is not the only region in British Columbia that bans paper products at landfills. The Victoria and Nanaimo districts also prohibit disposal of these materials to boost recycling and reduce the amount of trash landfilled and incinerated.

The ban is likely to affect businesses the most, Marr says. Although there are curbside mixed-paper recycling programs across the district for residents, there are not as many paper recycling programs for businesses.

"Those businesses that haven't done any paper recycling may need to start," he says. "Those doing a little but not all they can do will need to increase their effort."