London talks trash, decision still a year away

Several city councillors are expressing concerns over the organic waste collection program, which would cost Winnipeggers between $55 and $100 per year.
Several city councillors are expressing concerns over the organic waste collection program, which would cost Winnipeggers between $55 and $100 per year. Getty Images

It will be up to the next city council to decide whether or not London adopts a green bin program.

Waste diversion was on the agenda for the civic works committee on Tuesday as city politicians heard from city staff on new provincial rules that will require municipalities with over 50,000 people to divert organic waste from landfills in the future.

London currently doesn’t have a green bin program or something comparable.

London city council rejected the idea of a green bin program in earlier budget talks, just like previous councils have. It will be hard to say no in future discussions as the new provincial rules come into play.

READ MORE: Ontario government aiming to keep organic waste away from landfills

A decision on a green bin program, or mixed waste composting, which is something city staff are also investigating, is still a long ways away.

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“We are looking at both systems,” said Jay Stanford, London’s director of environment and solid waste. “The green bin, we’ve indicated many times over is an 8-9 per cent added diversion at a certain price. Mixed waste composting is likely to push the 8 or 9 up to 14 or 15 per cent. It comes at a higher price, but it comes at a higher diversion from landfill.”

City staff have already begun talking to Londoners about a plan for the future that process will continue throughout 2018. The current timeline would see an organics program developed this year and next, and implemented in 2021.

One factor the city will have to deal with is “vagueness” Stanford said they’re seeing at the provincial level. There are a lot of goals under the Waste Free Ontario Framework, but few details.

READ MORE: Green bin in the cards for London?

The earliest a decision would be made would be in 2019, meaning it would be up to the next council to make the decision.

The next municipal election will be this October.

The two main options under consideration are a green bin program and mixed waste composting, which would see organic food separated from the trash at a facility.

London city council has already to a 60 per cent waste diversion target by 2022 but what the province has called for would go beyond that.

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London currently diverts 45 per cent waste from the landfill.

READ MORE: Ontario looking at banning food waste in garbage

No two green bin programs are different, Stanford says every city does something different.

“What a community such as Toronto has done is put the diversion amount as a higher priority than quality,” he said. “Other communities put in a very restrictive list, they’ve gone primarily with just food waste and some soiled papers. That will all be a key discussion.”

The green bin program would cost $12 million in one-time capital costs for additional collection vehicles, carts and kitchen catchers. It would also cost about $4.5 million annually, which includes weekly organics and recycling collection. Mixed waste composting would be double the annual cost of the green bin program, but would divert 60 per cent more materials.

It would likely take London longer to implement mixed waste composting over a green bin program.

READ MORE: Too many water bottles ending up in Ontario landfills: environmentalists

Ward 6 coun. Phil Squire asked how a new ban on organics would be enforced. Stanford said that’s one of the questions the city has for the province.

“These are the things I wish I had answers for, I don’t. I don’t believe the province has answers for that,” he said.

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Stanford says a position paper on the subject is expected to be released at some point this year.

Whatever London decides to do, changes to recycling in Ontario will provide some financial relief for the municipality. Currently, industry pays for about 45 to 50 per cent of the cost of the recycling program in London. In 2-3 years, that will move to about 100 per cent, resulting in savings between $1.5 and $2 million.

Recycling costs London $10 million per year. 68 per cent of recyclable products are recycled in London, the province would like to see that rise to 75 per cent by 2025.

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