Port Moody to tweak fees, requirements for ‘deconstruction’ waste to coax builders to recycle

construction crane
file photo supplied Michal Klajban

After a wrecking ball flattens an old Port Moody building, the city wants developers to recycle the old materials rather than dumping them in landfills.

A recently-passed bylaw was meant to encourage just that, but so far it’s been a “struggle” to get many developers to participate, said Robyn MacLeod, manager of building, bylaw and licensing.

“A lot of the contractors are saying, ‘it’s just the cost of doing construction,’ and not bothering to put in the receipts,” MacLeod said.

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The compliance rate is “fairly good” with those who take the effort, MacLeod explained.

The city passed their Deconstruction Waste Management Bylaw in late 2021. Before any demolition takes place, developers are required to submit a fee to the city based on the square footage of the site. Developers are able to recoup that fee if they recycle a significant portion of the old building.

A compliance report is required at the end of a project, listing waste generated from the building, and the facility used for disposal.

Fees are now increasing, and a minimum of 70 percent of total recyclable construction materials need to be recycled in order to be eligible for any refund at all. Previously, it was only 30 percent.

To receive a full refund, 100 percent of clean wood and 85 percent of other recyclables need to be recycled.

The city is also changing its internal language to refer to “deconstruction” rather than “demolition” wherever possible.

Coun. Amy Lubik asked how much clean wood from old buildings is actually salvageable.

MacLeod said the percentage of clean wood able to be reused is small because it needs to be unpainted, untreated and free of nails.

She said there are not many waste facilities available to contractors that will sort out materials that can be recycled.

“We need more of those companies out there, because there’s only a few of them right now that will actually take a mixed load and recycle as much as they can out of it,” MacLeod said.

“That’s what we try to encourage as much as possible.”

Coun. Callan Morrision questioned whether the city increasing the threshold of recycled materials required for refunds would actually act as an incentive for developers.

It’s largely a question of whether developers are willing to go through the effort, MacLeod said.

The deconstruction bylaw was created after a presentation to council from the Unbuilders Deconstruction company CEO Adam Corneil in October, 2021.

“Basically, everything in an old building can be recycled,” Corneil said, adding that deconstruction is healthier for the economy and the environment.

He said the city needs to assign bylaw officers to review waste receipts and survey construction sites to ensure compliance, otherwise it won’t work.

The city participated in regional working groups to form the new bylaw, and their regulation has been held up as a model by Metro Vancouver for other municipalities, according to staff’s report.

“I think we might be one of the first in Metro Vancouver to take a much more restrictive look at building materials,” said Coun. Diana Dilworth.

One-third of all waste generated in region is related to the construction industry, according to Metro Vancouver.

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