Hamilton's Waste Diversion Rate Worsens

Hamilton Garbage Bins (Wayne MacPhail photo / https://flic.kr/p/4fMabb)Hamilton Garbage Bins (Wayne MacPhail photo / https://flic.kr/p/4fMabb)

Nothing gets City Council queasy like garbage.

The City’s Glanbrook landfill has a limited life span, the cost of garbage management is increasing, and the only way to tackle the problem is to decrease the amount of garbage being generated.

There’s only one problem – limiting garbage pick-up is believed to be unpopular and Councillors want to get re-elected.

Council voted against bi-weekly waste collection in 2012, a proposal that came with an expected savings of $3-million per year and instead implemented tag system to enable households to put out up to 26 extra bags of garbage per year at no extra charge.

(Ottawa implemented bi-weekly collection in 2012, with a savings of $10-mil/yr and a significant increase in waste diversion)

Councillor cited concerns about an increase of illegal dumping with a one bag per week limit as the primary reason for implementing tags.

Waste Diversion Failing in Hamilton

Waste Diversion – the term for increasing recycling and composting while decreasing solid waste – is a challenge in Hamilton with improvements during the past decade being slowly reversed (bucking a trend province-wide) in the past couple of years.

In fact, among Hamilton’s group – Large Urban Cities – we’re second-to-last for Waste Diversion at 47%. York leads the group at 57%, Halton at 52%, and Toronto at 51% from the most recent statistics available.

Of course, Hamilton City Hall prefers to be compared to Brantford, Guelph, and Niagara. Even using the City’s preferred comparators, Hamilton is lagging but good news – we’re still better than Brantford.

Guelph’s diversion rate – the best in the province – is 68%, Niagara is 50%, and Brantford is a lousy 34%.

Hamilton’s waste diversion goal was to reach 65% by 2008, which was changed to 65% by the end of 2011, and presently the City is planning for 55% by 2021 while officially maintaining the 65% goal.

Waste Tags, Collection, and Illegal Dumping

In 2013, there was 10,278 requests for extra trash tags above the 14 mailed to every household in the City.

The number of homes putting out more than one bin of garbage each week – using the amnesty tag system – has increased from 28% to 30% in the past year.

The tag programs impact upon illegal dumping is hard to measure, but illegal dumping continues to increase across the City, with household waste often being dumped into public garbage containers.

The staff report says when they catch people dumping household waste, they discover they are usually unaware of how to get more trash tags or think there is a cost.

Staff are recommending increased education of the tag program.

Paying for Tags

Hamilton’s not unique in having trash tags for people to put out extra waste.

Many other municipalities with one-bag limits (and biweekly collection) charge for tags from $1 in Peel to $3.10 in Toronto.

Report recommends against implementing a user-fee for trash tags.

Watch Live Coverage of Council’s GIC meeting on Monday starting at 9:30am

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