This week at City Council we had a very important debate and discussion regarding the Curbside Waste Policy. For the last several weeks I have heard from residents all over the ward with their comments on this topic, ranging from support to a bag and tag system, to fears about illegal dumping, to worries about changes to their finances in connection to curbside pickup.
I want to thank City Staff who completed a very thorough report, and engagement on the curbside waste in our City. This included receiving 20,064 responses to the online public survey. 1,000 responses through purchased representative sample, hosting 4 public sessions, holding 5 focus-group sessions with equity-deserving individuals, hosting 5 sessions with Solid Waste Services staff, and 2 meetings with collection contractors. This was a tremendous amount of work.
At Council I voted in favour of Councillor Devine’s motion to limit collection to two 140 liter containers of garbage with 15 free tags on extra bags. I believed this variant on the Staff recommendation of 55 tags for containers would help us reach the diversion goals we need to meet. This motion did not pass with a vote of 10-14.
Next we voted on a firm bag limit of three containers, brought forward by Councillor Brown and Councillor Carr. With the failure for the two container limit I voted in favour of the three container firm limit, believing we needed to do something, rather than stagnant at the six container limit we currently have in the City.
I still have concerns that the three container limit will not make a sufficient difference to the diversion of waste from the landfill. Regardless of the change from six containers to three containers, the goal for residents remains the same. We all need to make every effort to recycle and compost to save money and reduce unnecessary waste in our landfill.
I am disappointed that we continue to have difficult seeing the importance of meeting diversion goals, and the connection to cost saving for the City, as well the impact proper diversion will have on the environment in the long term.
Every item that is not diverted to recycling will cost us, both in space in the landfill, but also in dollars and cents. With the new blue box program, it is producers who pay for the cost of recycling materials. This could be a huge cost saving for the City, if we properly divert our recycling to the proper blue and black bins. We cannot squander the change by the province, if people put their recycling in the trash then we’re missing on the cost saving of this new program.
I am pleased to hear that staff are considering my request that recycling in parks be being expanded. This would be very helpful for diversion, but also in regard to keeping our parks clean and beautiful.
We need to move forward in our approach, and I am happy there will be a strong emphasis on educating residents on the importance of waste diversion, and the part they play in helping to expand the life of our landfill, the environment, and keeping their taxes low.