City of Kingston ponders big changes to curbside recycling, garbage collection

The City of Kingston is considering major changes to the way it collects household garbage and recycling in order to achieve a 65 per cent waste diversion target by 2025. Global Kingston

Kingston homeowners could face some big changes when putting out their garbage and recycling for regular curbside collection.

The city is studying a variety of ways to achieve its stated goal of diverting 65 per cent of household waste from landfills by 2025.

The current waste diversion rate stands at about 60 per cent, a rate that has held steady for the past few years and is not expected to increase.

“The preferred approaches and enhancements to achieve and sustain 60 per cent waste diversion have been implemented, and the waste diversion rate is not expected to increase with the status quo,” according to a staff report.

READ MORE: Kingston is first Ontario city to declare climate emergency

City officials say they’re now exploring a raft of new measures in order to reach the 65 per cent target.

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Among the new trash disposal ideas being considered are:

  • an increase in the cost of garbage bag tags to encourage greater participation in the city’s diversion programs
  • the elimination of the existing one free bag per week and exploration of full user pay options, including a policy for low-income individuals
  • the prohibition of recyclables and organics in the garbage stream and the use of clear bags for garbage
  • a reduction in the frequency of garbage collection from weekly to every two weeks for most eligible properties
  • a limit on the number of additional tagged garbage bags permitted for collection

Other options on the table include reducing the number of special two-bag garbage weeks from three to two a year, increasing the size of the city’s blue and grey boxes, implementing the mandatory use of green bins at properties with multiple residences, eliminating fees and charges for schools that participate in the green bin organics program and providing two size options for green bins at either 45 or 80 litres.

City officials say the long list of options can be more easily adopted under the existing waste management system and will have a minimal impact on municipal budgets. They add that choosing how to proceed will be the focus of upcoming public consultations, however it will ultimately be up to city council to approve any new strategies.

According to data collected in 2017, the city handled 41,760 tonnes of household waste. Of that amount, 16,405 tonnes was sent to the landfill and 25,355 tonnes was diverted through recycling and compost programs.

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The city may also be moving ahead with big changes to the curbside recycling program that are expected to make it more convenient for homeowners and less likely for residents to toss cans, bottles and paper into garbage bags.

The city could move to a dual-stream recycling model where blue and grey boxes are collected at the same time every week. CKWS TV

The current system accounts for blue- or grey-box materials to be picked up on alternating weeks.

The staff proposal that’s currently making its way through committee aims to switch to a dual-stream system in which all recyclables can be picked up every week.

“These potential strategies would also further incentivize the use of the recycling program,” reads the proposal.

READ MORE: Should blue and grey boxes be collected the same week?

Many residents have indicated through annual customer satisfaction surveys that they do not have enough storage space to store blue- and grey-box recyclables over the two-week rotating collection period. Residents have also complained that the schedules are confusing, the set-out requirements are too difficult to follow and the boxes are overflowing on collection days.

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“The most recent survey results indicated that 492 (87 per cent) of the 569 respondents reported that they believe the city should increase the service level to provide collection of both blue box and grey box weekly,” according to a city staff report.

About 10,500 metric tonnes (over 23 million pounds) of blue- and grey-box recyclables are collected, processed and sold from the city’s recycling program, according to a staff report.

It would cost the city nearly $2 million to convert its recycling facility to process blue- and grey-box materials at the same time. CKWS TV

The switch has an estimated capital cost of $1.8 million to convert collection trucks and the recycling depot to process and sort all recyclables at once, plus an extra $100,000 in operating costs.

If council approves the business plan, the next phase would be to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to retrofit, design, and build a dual-stream recycling processing facility on Lappan’s Lane and to issue a second RFP for the weekly collection of blue and grey boxes.

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City staff would like to launch the streamlined residential recycling collection service starting July 1, 2021.

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