May 14, 2018 4:38 pm
Updated: May 14, 2018 4:40 pm

City to launch ‘modified’ recycling pilot at Ottawa parks for summer 2018

The City of Ottawa is pursuing a "modified" recycling pilot program in approximately 50 parks for the summer 2018 season. The pilot will see recycling bins placed beside every garbage bin.

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Staff at Ottawa City Hall will be taking another crack at increasing recycling in the city’s parks this summer, after a pilot project launched last year produced some less-than-ideal results.

In 2017, the city’s department of public works and environmental services placed blue recycling carts in the parking lots of seven “high-usage” parks in Ottawa — a short-term experiment before pushing ahead with a more comprehensive system.

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But the pilot results showed only a “limited amount of recyclables” were collected at those locations, and many were “contaminated with food and dog waste,” according to a note submitted to the city’s environment and climate protection committee by the department’s general manager.

READ MORE: Toronto targeting recycling contamination with bin inspections

The City of Ottawa is now pursuing a “modified” version of that pilot, the document said, and will stick recycling bins, complete with signs, beside every garbage bin in about 50 municipal parks for the duration of summer 2018.

“Each bin location will feature pictorial signage depicting what materials can go in the recycling bin,” the note from General Manager Kevin Wylie says. “Based on the information gained from the pilot, staff will determine the best way to implement a full-scale parks recycling program.”

News of the revamped pilot program came in response to a question from River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington, submitted in October, about how the city could “significantly increase the collection of recyclables” in parks.

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On last year’s pilot, the reply noted city staff believe the location of the recycling bin carts in parking lots “may have reduced uptake of the program.” In an interview on Monday, Brockington — whose ward includes large parks like Mooney’s Bay — said residents often don’t want to walk the extra 100 metres to dispose of something separately.

“Make it a one-stop shop, so regardless of what they have in their hands, there’s going to be a spot to put that,” he said. “That’s sort of my goal going forward.”

Global News was told no city staff were available for interviews about the summer 2018 parks recycling pilot ahead of the environment committee’s next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Councillor wants to see better waste management at city festivals, special events

In his same question to the public works department last fall, Brockington also asked how the city works with organizers of festivals and other special events in the city “to ensure recycling facilities are available on-site and that packaging used for food is environmentally friendly (i.e., not styrofoam).”

There’s no legislation right now that enforces recycling at special events hosted in town — nor that forbids food vendors at these events from using styrofoam or other non-recyclable materials. The department’s response noted that on-site recycling efforts remain in the organizers’ hands but adds that many festivals and events — including Bluesfest and the Dragon Boat Festival — have gone ahead and adopted an “environmentally-friendly mandate.”

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Brockington said his ward comes in second to downtown for hosting special events — many of which he attends — and he said he sees more festivals than he’s “comfortable with” that don’t provide recycling facilities on site. He said his ultimate goal is to see every special event hosted in Ottawa following a “large-scale environmental plan” that includes better waste management and increased use of recyclable packaging.

“I just don’t want to see oodles of garbage bags piled in the corner of your festival site, waiting to be picked up after the weekend,” Brockington said. “There’s got to be a much more sound way to get rid of this stuff.”

READ MORE: 5 things you didn’t know you could recycle

On the city’s part, the note pointed to a municipal program that lends out recycling racks for community events with less than 300 attendants — leaving it up to organizers to drop off the recyclables at a city yard for processing — as well as other municipal and provincial initiatives and partnerships that promote “green” festivals and events.

Still, Brockington feels more can be done to collaborate with event organizers — which is why he plans to ask for the city’s response to his inquiry to be added as an agenda item at Tuesday’s committee meeting.

“We’re not putting more pressure on them to get this done,” he said. “I think it deserves greater conversation.”

Waste watchdog gave Ottawa low marks for recycling rates

The City of Ottawa has to pick up the pace when it comes to recycling rates, according to grassroots watchdog Waste Watch Ottawa.

Last fall, the group released a report highlighting that Ottawa’s rate of waste diversion in 2015 (42.5 per cent) fell below the provincial average (47.7 per cent). Waste Watch Ottawa’s findings, based on an analysis of municipal data submitted to the provincial Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, showed this places Ottawa behind “leading municipalities” who are diverting more than 50 per cent of their waste.

Brockington confirmed there is no penalty to residents if they choose not to recycle or use their green bins and instead chuck all their waste in the garbage.

WATCH: Recycling mistakes are costing Canada millions

In late March, city council voted in favour of a staff recommendation to enhance Ottawa’s green bin program by allowing residents to throw in plastic bags and dog feces with their organic waste.

The city believes this change, to be implemented in mid-2019, will help increase the diversion rate of organic waste to 63 per cent — up from 40 per cent — by 2023.

The public works department’s message to Brockington noted that another pilot project for collecting dog waste from 10 city parks was approved for summer 2019. Staff will use that to determine whether having separate bins for dog waste helps reduce the amount of contaminated recyclables in other bins.

Brockington said Monday he’s not sure why the practice of recycling properly hasn’t been normalized by now.

“I don’t know why anyone would think it’s OK not to,” he said. “It’s 2018, we’ve had the recycling now for over 20 years. Why would we think this is OK?”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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