Garbage and Recycling

Biweekly garbage pickup to save city $54M

Plan seeks to win over naysayers

A city plan to pick up garbage every two weeks, while increasing green-bin pickup to every week, will save taxpayers $9 million annually for six years, according to a report to be released today.

Biweekly garbage pickup doesn't come as a huge surprise, as city officials -including environment committee chair Councillor Maria McRae -have indicated for weeks that they are headed in that direction. However, from the moment the city announced early this year it was going to consult the public on possible changes, biweekly pickup has been controversial in some quarters.

Three east-side councillors immediately declared war on any proposal to collect regular garbage less often, sending out a joint media release that earned them a scolding from newly sworn-in Mayor Jim Watson.

Cumberland Councillors Stephen Blais said at the time that "this plan to reduce the frequency of garbage pickup is not what voters sent us to City Hall to accomplish." And Orléans Councillor Bob Monette is already saying that the savings to ratepayers may not make up for what he's characterizing as a "cut to a core service."

But the plan to be unveiled this afternoon pulls out all the stops to win over the naysayers.

The first gambit? Money. "Residents will pay less for garbage," said McRae, who declined to discuss specifics of the report. "Their bill will go down."

But a copy of the report obtained by the Citizen indicates that households will see a $28 reduction in the fees they pay to have their waste and recyclables handled. The new program is expected to trim $9 million in city expenditures annually from 2012 to 2018, for $54 million in total savings, according to the report.

The new program -which must be approved by full council next month -would see regular garbage picked up every second week, but greenbin compostable pickup would be bumped up to every week. Although the city asked residents during the consultations whether they would like a combined blue-and-black box recycling service, it seems the public would rather that the two programs continue to alternate each week.

One of the big talking points of the proposed program is sure to be a service to continue to offer weekly pickup to families with young children and home-based caregivers who must dispose of diapers, as well as those who need to dispose of adult incontinence products.

(Even Blais might have trouble arguing with this point. One of his complaints in January was that "as the father of toddler, I know firsthand how untenable dirty diapers only being collected every two weeks will be for young families.")

It does not appear that the city will implement a pay-bythe-bag fee, although that was one option floated early on.

The new service is to begin in June 2012, as the contract for waste disposal service expires in May 2012. The new contract must be put out to tender in two months, which is why the decision must make it through council by mid-April.

One of the ways the city will save money is that half the trucks will be on the road. Not only will regular trash be picked up half the time but, according to the report, whatever new contract the city signs would call for trucks that are equipped to pick up both green bin organics and either blue or black box recyclables -a half-and-half option that chops the number of recycling trucks hitting city roads weekly. (Currently, there's one truck for green bins and another for other recyclables.)

That also ties into the city's other main selling point: the environment. Officials are hoping residents will support the idea of a 50-per-cent reduction in vehicles on the road, as well as the goal of extending the life of the Trim Road landfill. According to the report, the planned changes could increase the city's waste diversion to 50 per cent, from the current 33.

Green bin service would also be extended to all rural areas within Ottawa's boundary. Although many rural residents have said they'd rather use their own compost bins instead of the city's organics program, they already pay for the green bin, and this would actually provide them with the service.

The final arm of the city's strategy may be the toughest sell of all: service.

When asked whether residents, like Monette, will feel that the city is reducing one of its core services, McRae said, "We're not decreasing it -we're changing the way we provide it."

She made the case that the "smelliest" waste, or organics, is being picked up every week in "as many green bins as people want to put out."

But in end, residents have an option, added McRae. "They can keep their garbage in the trash to be picked up every two weeks, or they can decide to use the green bin."

The city will have two public meetings on the proposed changes next week before the report goes to a special environment committee on April 11 and onto council later the same week.

Copyright © 2017 Stephen Blais