As many may recall, during the last term of Council, the City began a process to develop a new Solid Waste Master Plan. The plan is designed to guide how we manage solid waste over the next 30 years. A key component of the plan is to address the fact that our Trail Road Landfill is nearing capacity, and we must look for both short-term and long-term solutions to manage the way we dispose of our waste.
The upcoming report addresses specifically short-term solutions to extend the life of the landfill, while long-term solutions are being explored. The easiest and most cost-efficient way to extend the life of the landfill is to divert as much waste from the landfill as possible by encouraging increased participation in our existing recycling and organics programs. Through thorough data collection, for many homes, it was noted that more than half of what is put out as waste could be diverted from landfills, via the recycling or the green bin program. By better utilizing these programs, we can avoid more costly options for taxpayers – a key concern for all residents, and a priority I share.
While this report does not provide an in-depth overview of what long-term options are being explored, this work is happening. The City is looking at options ranging from siting a new landfill, as well as leveraging new technologies – including incineration. However, both options will have an associated cost in the range of $350M to $400M, and it will take 10-15 years before it would be fully operational. It is for this reason, that short-term solutions, like changes to curbside collection, are so critical.
Managing solid waste is a shared responsibility, and we all have a role to play. That is why the City undertook extensive public consultation throughout 2021-2022 to fully understand how we can adjust our curbside collection for garbage in a way that serves the needs of residents, while achieving the goal of reducing our waste.
Through public consultation, various options for changes to curbside collection were considered including reducing bag limits, introducing clear bags, and a partial pay as you throw system (tag a bag). Each option has pros and cons, but ultimately the results of the consultation showed that a tag a bag system was by far the preference of residents that participated – which was more than 20,000 people.
The tag a bag system was preferred for several reasons including flexibility to dispose of garbage, ability to continue to use garbage bins, as well as a lower cost to taxpayer. Residents also appreciated that the number of tags to be issued (55 per year) was not overly restrictive, and that 74% of Ottawa residents already put out two or less items of garbage every two weeks. This would mean that for the strong majority of residents there would be only a minor change required to their current garbage habits. Tag a bag is also a common model used in over 130 different municipalities including our neighbours in Kemptville and Gatineau and has a proven track record.
What is being proposed FAQ:
While many cities have introduced a tag a bag system, no two are identical. There has been a lot of information in the media about what is being proposed, but I felt it was important to put together a quick FAQ to help residents better understand the potential changes to curbside collection and its impact. The full staff report can be viewed here.
How many tags will I receive?
- Each household will receive 55 tags per year. These tags will be administered at no additional charge. This equates to approximately two items of garbage to be placed curbside every two weeks, with a little flexibility to put out more if needed on certain weeks.
What will be the cost for the tags?
- The first 55 tags will be at no additional cost. The staff report proposes that any additional tags be priced at $3 per tag. The cost is reflective of the cost to dispose of the additional garbage.
What is considered an “item of garbage”?
- One item of garbage can be a garbage bag, a bulky item, or a standard size garbage bin allowing for multiple bags to be placed in the bin. See images below as a guide.
Will I still be able to use my garbage bin?
- Yes. You will still be allowed to have two standard size bins. Within these bins you will be allowed multiple bags, as long as they are not overflowing, there is no loose garbage, and the top bag is tagged.
How does change this impact blue and black box collection, as well as the green bin program?
- No changes are being proposed to blue and black box collection or the green bin program. This will continue as normal.
Will there still be a special considerations program for diapers?
- Yes. Staff are also recommending that this program be expanded to include non-hazardous medical waste.
Where will I be able to purchase additional tags?
- This will be discussed as part of the implementation plan (if approved), but other cities have tags available for purchase in drugstores, grocery stores, municipal facilities etc.
These were just a few of the questions that have come up most frequently in recent correspondence to my office.
I acknowledge that there have also been concerns raised as well, including special considerations for large families, concerns about household garbage dumping in parks, and other equity considerations for low-income families. I share these concerns and believe that there is always an opportunity for improvement. I am open to working with my colleagues to get that balance right.
The report is set to be considered at the City’s Environment Committee in early June, and to Council later in the month. I am keeping track of all comments shared to date, and I will continue to do so going forward. I recognize that any changes to curbside collection will be challenging, but I am hopeful that overall, these proposed changes strike the right balance to achieve our objectives and to protect taxpayers from other costly options.