Point Roberts: A Small Community Striving to be green through thoughtful Garbage and Recycling

This site a community resource for people wanting change




Tips for what you can recycle on the Point and what you need to take to Tsawwassen

Tips for using


Help us reduce garbage

Every home on the Point produces garbage. We know this – but we want homes to reduce the amount of garbage and to use the question of garbage to help to start a new conversation on the Point around sustainability and reducing our impact on landfills and our environment.

We’re committed to creating events designed to help the community make a difference! So far we’ve:

  • hosted 2 clothing drives and directed more than 700 bags of clothes and linens to community groups in need
  • conducted 2 beach clean ups
  • offered recycling education at the Spring Community Faire

We want to do more events that help people in our community. If you want to help, please connect with us. Tell us about what you are interested in by taking the survey.

We started our journey because we were very concerned about the new mandatory garbage mandate. It is at the core of our beliefs that we should all be concerned about meeting the statewide mandate to reduce garbage and take that seriously in our homes.

Although now a secondary focus, we are still working hard to reduce the minimum service level so that it works for seniors, small families, seasonal residents and those on fixed incomes. Our community is very diverse with 75% seasonal homes – any solution for Point Roberts garbage must reflect the seasonality of this special community.

Simply put, 26 cans of garbage per year is too many as a minimum level of service. We continue to advocate to reduce the minimum to 12 cans. This is one can per month for full time residents or 2 cans per month for 6 months (maximum stay for Canadians).

Although the mandatory service has started, when we last presented at County Council, they suggested they would consider a review this fall acknowledging that Bellingham does have a lower service level option than is now mandated for Point Roberts. Please help us provide good information on your garbage usage this spring so we can advocate to reduce the level. Remember anyone who needs more than the minimum can pay for more if needed.

Each home owner has 26 cans per year that they can use as they fill their cans. We recommend you set out your can ONLY when the can is full. This saves you the option of using more if you do spring cleaning, have a party, have house guests or are moving. If you set out partial cans, this skews the usage – and does not reflect the actual need for the service in our community. 

Each home owner is required to get a statement showing how many cans they have used every two months. When you get a statement showing your usage, please save it so it can be sent to County Council to show real statistics on usage in Point Roberts.

If you want more information, please email and we’ll connect with you personally.

What are the issues?

The mandatory service level includes two components:

1 – every other week recycling for all households
2 – 26 variable 32-gallon can pick ups per household
Fees for these mandated minimum services will be charged on property taxes.

Let’s start with recycling.

Recycling is a state-wide mandate. All homes in Washington must have curbside recycling. Under the current tariff, Point Roberts seasonal weekend and vacation home owners were encouraged to have the service but they were not required to. The mandated service has now removed this wording from Whatcom County Code.

We are discouraged that the exemption for seasonal weekend and vacation home owners has been removed but we believe in the mantra REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. We understand the value of having recycling available and want to reduce garbage through increased recycling. Under the current tariff, every other week recycling is $5.33 per month – or $64 per year. With more than 7 times the customers under the new mandate, the hope is that this rate will be reduced.

26 32-gallon cans variable. Why is this too much garbage?

The mandatory service was designed to set a minimum standard. Approx. 300 of 2300 impacted homes currently have any level of curbside pick up. Many of those 300 have once a month pick up. As a result, this is a huge service increase even for current curbside customers.

Reason 1: 
In the Whatcom County Code, the minimum service for Whatcom County is monthly service of a 20-gallon mini-can. Under the June 5 revision, Point Roberts became the only region in Whatcom County to be required a higher level of service.

Reason 2: Less than 13% of current home owners use the level of service that has been set as the minimum. The PRCAC survey of 314 home owners did not request this service level.

Reason 3: Point Roberts is a unique community with many seniors and 75% seasonal residents.

  • If you are a senior who produces a small amount of garbage, 1 20-gallon mini-can per month, under the new service level, you will have to pay for 3 times the service you currently need – regardless of whether you use it.
  •  If you are in Point Roberts 6 months of the year, you would have to use garbage every week to use the 26 can minimum.
  • If you are in Point Roberts June-July-August months, you would have to use 2 cans of garbage per week for the 3 months to use the minimum.

Reason 4: We will be the only jurisdiction to pay for garbage on taxes in Whatcom County. This plan disadvantages people on a fixed income. Pre-paying for garbage requires saving to pay for the service. Not all people in our community have the funds to pre-pay for service, regardless of whether they use it.

Reason 5: The new estimates a massive increase in garbage without an increase of people or homes in the service area. The mandated level of service would estimate the annual removal of garbage from homes in Point Roberts at 1794 tonnes of garbage (26 cans x 60 lbs per can x 2300 homes). We believe in reducing garbage – not increasing it.

The total tons of garbage removed from Point Roberts in 2017 including commercial, drop-box, curbside and transfer station operations (which is the largest volume of garbage annually) was 1100 tons.

Reason 6: Garbage is a fee for service and service levels should be based on a needs assessment. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission allows regulated collection companies to make 5.9% profit over and above their operating costs and their asset depreciation (7 year depreciation). There are no costs incurred if garbage is not picked up. No staffing needs and no garbage hauling or dumping fees. The service should be what home owners can use and allow the operator the profit that is inline with the service provided.

Reason 7: Services that are much needed in this community are not being offered. Many home owners have required curbside green waste service and large item pick up. Both green waste and large items pose a garbage problem in our community as they are left on the curb or disposed of in vacant lots. These services have not been added as part of the mandated service. We would love it if they were!

Reason 8: Neither Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee nor the Public Health Department have provided a reason why the 26 can level of service was chosen instead of the county wide minimum of 12 mini-cans per year.

What are we asking for?

We are asking Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee to endorse a lower service minimum and request that Whatcom County Council reduce the minimum.

Email PRCAC to support a minimum of 12 cans plus recycling.

We believe Point Roberts can be a leader in green. We support the mantra REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. We believe that Point Roberts home owners should be subject to the minimum service level set in the Whatcom County Code – which is monthly service of one 20-gallon mini-can plus recycling.

This is not a perfect solution but we believe that a lower service minimum provides options for all home owners. People who require additional service can do so – but it does not disadvantage those who produce less garage. The increase in customers from 300 to 2300 will provide a much larger base of stability for the garbage operator.

We don’t believe we need to be treated differently than other areas in the County, or forced to have 3 times more monthly service (1 x 20 gallon per month versus 2 x 32 gallon per month).

12 cans works better for more kinds of households:

Year round resident – 1 mini-can per month
6 month seasonal – 1 mini-can every two weeks
3 month seasonal – 1 mini-can per week

Estimated total garbage if every can is full: 12 x 40 lbs x 2300 = 552 tons of garbage. This is inline with the annual total garbage of 1100 tons (2017 figure).

We support recycling on the Point for home owners and businesses. We advocate for large item pick up and green waste pick up.

What’s Next

Fall 2019:

  • Washington Utilities and Transportation Committee will be requested to do a review of the new garbage service and work with CANDO to review the rate structure that was set for 2019.
  • Impacted Home Owners must be contacted by the applicant for this change as part of the rate process. In the case of this change, all lots with septic/homes should be contacted.
  • Contact the UTC if you want more information on this process.

Get Involved