Condo group asks Lethbridge council for opt-out options as curbside recycling implementation continues

Lethbridge condo group pushing to opt out of mandatory curbside recycling program
WATCH: Curbside recycling is almost fully up and running in Lethbridge, and larger condo buildings make up the last group awaiting implementation. But as Danica Ferris reports, some local condo advocates are pushing for opt-out options.

Multi-family buildings larger than 45 units are the last group awaiting the implementation of Lethbridge’s curbside recycling program, but a group of condo advocates are asking for the option to opt-out.

The citywide residential curbside recycling program was approved by city council in 2016, and blue cart pickup for single-family homes began in May 2019. Now, nearly a year and a half later, multi-family buildings are the focus.

The city-run program comes at a cost of $7 per month added to all household utility bills with no opt-out option. The city said the fee provides cost recovery for the service, as the Waste and Recycling Utility is not a profit centre but rather operates on a cost-recovery basis.

Read more: Lethbridge residents to receive blue curbside recycling bins in coming weeks

According to the city, the implementation for group one of multi-family homes included condos and buildings with less than 45 units — about 123 properties — and began in September 2019. Group two — buildings with more than 45 units — is slated to begin in January 2021, with 39 per cent of this group already participating in the program due to requests.

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Each unit is to be provided with a seven-gallon recycling container to transfer recyclable materials from their unit to metal bins placed outdoors on the property.

Unlike single-family homes — which have blue bin pickup biweekly — multi-family recycling is picked up every week.

But a group of 10 condo buildings is speaking out, asking not to be included in the program. Brian Freeze, the spokesperson for the ad hoc committee of the 10 condominiums, presented to city council on Monday as they sat as the Community Issues Committee.

“We’re really a different market than the residential market the city is currently servicing,” Freeze said.

Read more: City of Lethbridge marks 1 year of curbside recycling

Freeze said his condo building has been participating in volunteer-run recycling for as many as 10 years, and other condominiums in the group have formed similar practices. The program comes at what he said is a significantly lower cost to residents than the program the city has made compulsory.

“The cost is one issue because we can do it for about — instead of $7 — the larger the condo is, ours is 252 units, we do it for about 52 cents per residence, per month cost,” he said. “The highest is about $2.50 for the smaller buildings.”

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Freeze said garbage for the buildings is already picked up commercially, so the group is hoping council will consider treating recycling the same.

But the city’s waste and recycling manager, Joel Sanchez, said that allowing an opt-out would present issues for those who are taking part.

“The cost that we have to implement the program, 80 per cent or 75 per cent, is fixed,” said Sanchez. “It’s the trucks, it’s the equipment, it’s the labour. So if people are not part of the program, that means the cost will be higher for the ones that are going to be participating.”

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Freeze said he hopes the larger condos can be considered a different category than other residential properties.

“We think it’s a win-win if we allow this small sector, large condominiums, to be serviced commercially,” he said. “It’s a sector that can grow and help create local business and support these small contractors who see a profit there.”

Per the group’s presentation to city councillors on Monday, two options were proposed:

  1. For waste removal and recycling, the city treat large condominiums as commercial properties, classifying high-density residences with over 40 units as commercial properties, and allow them to continue to contract private recycling services
  2. Request the city revise the proposed per month rates for high-density residential condominiums to reflect the economies of scale relative to single-family residences

The topic could be back before city council as soon as the Monday, Sept. 21 meeting.

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