Changes to garbage collection are being considered for the future, with a goal of increasing recycling and composting, and streamlining costs.
Moving to curbside pickup every other week for residential garbage is one of the options under discussion.
With a new Regional garbage collection contract looming, residents and municipalities are being asked to weigh in on the alternatives. The next contract begins in March, 2021, when the changes will go into effect.
Catherine Habermebl, regional director of waste management, was at the Town’s committee of the whole meeting Monday to explain those options.
If residential garbage bag pickup moves to every second week, bag limits would double. Recycling and composting material would continue to be collected weekly.
Container limits for businesses and mixed-use properties would be reduced to four — some areas are now allowed six or seven.
Other alternatives suggested include a four-item limit per collection for large items, each collection.
The mandatory use of clear bags was considered but eliminated as an option — there was little support from the public.
“We do know for a fact through our audits that 50 per cent of the garbage bag in Niagara consists of organic material,” Habermebl said. “That material can be better managed through our green bin program.”
Other municipalities which have gone to every-other-week collection have successfully increased waste diversion, and increases in savings have ranged from $200,000 in Barrie to $12 million in Peel Region.
The Region is also considering eliminating the collection of appliances and scrap metal. In the majority of cases, Habermebl said, by the time the contractor gets to the curb, the material has already been grabbed by people who know the garbage schedule and get there first.
In response to a question from Lord Mayor Betty Disero about an increase in cost to the municipality to look after scrap metal and appliance pickup, Habermebl said the Region still has drop-offs at landfill sites. Residents can also find people who will collect them at no cost. In the past when collection changes were made, there was a slight increase in illegal dumping at the beginning, which declined as residents adapted. The Region has a program to address it if there is an issue. “We don’t believe there will be an increase in illegal dumping as a result of every-other-week collection,” she said.
The Town pays $76,600 a year to the Region for enhanced services, Habermebl said, including extra collections in the Queen Street area for garbage and cardboard.
Following the presentation, Brad Whitelaw, program manager for waste management, explained municipalities are being asked to review enhanced services to see if they are required at the same level in the new contract. NOTL has three extra garbage pickups a week with businesses able to put out up to 20 bags, and two cardboard collections with no limit. “Once a new contract is awarded, if that service is not needed, you don’t realize cost savings,” he said.
Whitelaw has been handling public consultation and engagement through the region’s website, social media, open houses, community booths and surveys, both online and by telephone. An open house and community booth were held at the NOTL community centre in November, he said.
The responses across the region in favour and against every-other-week garbage collection for residents were fairly evenly split, he said.
Statistics from across the province prove moving to every second week collection increases organic diversion — people don’t want their “smelly garbage” hanging around and will use their green bin rather than putting food waste in a garbage bag, he said, and there are other benefits to diversion, including the creation of a product from compost material.
In addition to “cost avoidance” in the new contract, he said, environmentally, “it’s the right thing to do.”
Allowing two bags every other week isn’t taking away service, it’s rescheduling it to reduce the number of trucks required and to cut down on truck maintenance, Whitelaw said, but as residents increase their recycling and use the green bin for organics, they’ll find they won’t need two bags.
The four-item limit per residence for large items and the elimination of scrap metal and appliances collection were largely supported, Whitelaw said.
The Region is asking municipalities to look at what they want in base collection service and other options and enhancements available to them, with a response by Feb. 20.