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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
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Trash collection changes not a service reduction, town told
Lord Mayor Betty Disero says the region and Niagara-on-the-Lake are still going to collect the ‘smelly’ portion of the garbage weekly. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors agree more education is needed about garbage collection changes to dispel a common perception that the services are being reduced.

Catherine Habermebl, director of waste management for the Region of Niagara, outlined for town council’s committee of the whole meeting Monday how the new system will work.

“It is still the same volume material. It’s just a different way of being collected,” she said.

The new every-other-week waste collection service, starting on Oct. 19, was approved by Niagara Region in October 2019.

The region is switching to biweekly collection to increase waste diversion, as 50 per cent of what residents put in their garbage bag is organic material that should have been placed in their green bin, Habermebl said.

A typical garbage bag picked up in Niagara is comprised of 36 per cent garbage and 14 per cent recyclable material. Only 48 per cent of low-density residential households use green bins in Niagara, she said.

If the region’s diversion rate is increased by at least one per cent, that means 2,000 fewer metric tonnes of waste per year will end up in a landfill, Habermebl told councillors.

By switching to biweekly collection, the region hopes it will be able to hit its target goal of a 65 per cent of diversion rate.

Habermebl said the “yuck factor” might be a reason residents often don’t use green bins because they may not want to touch the organic material and it is convenient for them to throw everything in one bag rather than sorting the waste.

“Without a policy change, you’re not going to get that behavioural change,” she said.

The new service was also introduced based on best practices among other municipalities and to cut costs on annual contracts, Habermebl said.

She stressed the new collection is not a reduction in services as the volume of collected garbage will remain the same. Residents will still be able to purchase additional garbage tags if required.

Garbage will be picked up by two waste collection companies: Miller Waste Systems Inc. and GFL Environmental Inc. The region currently has a contract with Emterra Environmental.

Recycling and organics will still be collected every week. Leaf and yard waste will be picked up weekly, branches eight weeks per year and Christmas trees every year.

Curbside collection of large appliances and scrap metals will require advance arrangements and will be limited to a maximum of four items per household per collection.

Diapers remain a concern for many families. People with medical conditions, a licensed home day care, or households with two or more children under the age of four currently qualify for an exemption allowing one extra bag. 

When biweekly collection starts, residents who are eligible for an exemption will be able to put out two clear bags of diapers every week, with no other garbage inside. In order to receive this service, residents are encouraged to register with the region.

The region will also look at making an amendment to the contract to allow residents to put out diapers regardless of how many children they have.

The facility at Walker Environmental, which processes green bin waste as part of its contract with the region, doesn’t have the technology to accept diapers in the green bin. Other municipalities, like Toronto, do permit diapers in the green bin.

Industrial, commercial and institutional businesses, outside of downtown business areas, will be able to put out eight containers, bags or cans, with no garbage tags, every two weeks.

The current contract with Emterra is “very low-cost,” Habermebl said, and the new contract pricing has increased due to higher labour, insurance, fuel, vehicle and technology costs.

The town’s interim chief administrative officer, Sheldon Randall said, in his opinion, the region’s last contract was “extremely underbid.”

“When you underbid a contract, you will inevitably have performance problems throughout the life of that contract,” he told councillors.

“It’s obvious (Emterra has) a real challenge staffing their trucks for collection and … likely now the employees that are going to be paid to operate these trucks are going to be paid a better living wage than what the current contractor provided their employees.”

The region’s next steps are to inform area residents of the changes and to launch a new web and mobile application that will send collection day reminders and notifications for any service interruptions.

Councillors in Niagara Falls have been vocal about opposing the collection change. If that city opts out from the program, the costs could go up for the remaining regional municipalities, Habermebl added.

Coun. Allan Bisback said he was “concerned” about the perception that the service is being reduced while the costs are going up.

“That’s a communication challenge … That’s what I get when I talk to residents. They don’t understand.”

Lord Mayor Betty Disero said there was “no question” there will have to be communication with the residents that will focus on the environmental benefits of the new collection service.

“When people talk about a reduction in service, we have to remind them that most people think garbage is the smelly garbage … What they really want to get rid of is smelly diapers, the wet waste, the bones, the vegetables. And the region and Niagara-on-the-Lake are still going to collect that portion of the garbage weekly, ” she said.

“So, really, all we’re reducing is some packaging that is not eligible for recycling.”