Two Saskatchewan municipalities, Saskatoon and Regina, have recently intensified their focus on the 3Rs in an effort to divert more waste from landfill.
In June, Saskatoon City Council voted to move gradually to composting of source separated organics and a Pay-as-you-Throw garbage collection model. According to a consultant’s report commission by the City Council, Saskatoon was lagging far behind other municipalities in Canada.
The City is one of the last communities of its size to introduce blue bin recycling. Saskatoon diverts less than a quarter of all waste from landfill while many other Canadian cities have been above the 50 per cent mark for years.
Saskatoon has a population of approximately 270,000 and is the largest City in the province and and the 17th largest Census Metropolitan Area in Canada, with a population of approximately 300,000.
One of the challenges of recycling in Saskatoon is the low density of the population. The City has a density of 1,200 people per square kilometre. Comparatively, Canada’s largest City, Toronto, has a density of over 4,000 people per square kilometre.
Under the proposed Pay-as-you-Throw Program, households would be charged a utility fee instead of paying for garbage through property taxes. When implemented, households will pay a variable utility fee depending on the size of their garbage cart.
In early September, Saskatoon’s Standing Policy Committee on Environment, Utilities and Corporate services meeting heard administration recommend bi-weekly pickup, and dropping waste collection from property taxes, with residents instead paying a monthly utility bill. According to an administrative report, there is an estimated property tax rate reduction of 3.5 per cent under this model. However, because the city is proposing a 4 per cent overall increase, the net effect under this model would result in a 0.5 per cent property tax increase in 2019. The PAYT system is expected to go before city council for a final decision on Sept. 24.
Saskatoon Council also voted in June to develop an organics program that will operate year-round using a single green cart for food and yard waste. The current cart size and frequency of curbside recycling will remain the same, but councillors deferred a decision on how much to spend buying green carts.
An Administration Report released in early September estimated that the new waste and organics program in Saskatoon could cost residents an additional $20 to $30 per month. City administration recommended $13.6-million in capital funding be approved to implement a year round, bi-weekly organics and waste collection program for curbside residential households. Administration also recommends that compost depots continue operating with no changes to existing service levels.
The City Administration recommended organics and waste be collected bi-weekly. It estimates the utility cost for residents would be $20 per month based on the use of a medium sized waste cart. Weekly collection of organics and waste would cost around $33 per month.
Recently, the City of Regina introduced a pilot project to roll out an organic waste program over the next four years. Lisa Legault, director for Regina’s Solid Waste, said the city’s goal has been to divert 65 per cent of household waste from the landfill. The city began its blue bin recycling in 2015, but is still stuck at the 20 per cent mark in its diversion goal.
The proposed pilot project, which would take effect in 2020, would see compost picked up weekly with garbage eventually being picked up biweekly. A final implementation plan will be presented to council in spring 2021 with a city-wide implementation starting in 2022.
According to Legault, the annual cost of the organic waste service would be $7.9 million. However, she added, $4.6 million would be saved from garbage collection, cutting the cost to $3.3 million. Homeowners would pay between $36 to $51 extra on their property taxes. The pilot project would cost the city $3.5 million.
Coupled with the organics program, the Solid Waste Department is proposing a new funding policy for curbside waste services. The proposed model would fund curbside recycling and future diversion services, like organics, through property taxes and curbside garbage collection through user fees. Currently, residents pay for curbside recycling services through a monthly fee on utility ‘water’ bills. This fee would be eliminated. It is reasoned that the proposed approach will motivate residents to reduce their waste generation and focus on diversion.
Under the proposed new financial model, curbside garbage collection will be based on the size of garbage cart the resident requires and will be billed through a monthly fee on the City’s utility bills. Residents who reduce waste and continue to take advantage of waste diversion services will have the opportunity to choose the lowest cost service option.
In June, Regina City Councillors delayed plans for a price on garbage bins until Waste Department staff came up with more details on the cost of the plan. “It’s difficult to make a decision on a fee structure when I don’t know what it is,” said Councillor Andrew Stevens. “User fees, flat-rate user fees, generally function as a regressive taxation system,” he said. “You’re going to see low-income people paying more.” Lisa Legault noted that requiring residents to pay for the cheaper program (recycling) through property taxes and the costlier one (garbage pickup) through fees could help lower taxes.
At a Public Works Committee meeting in June, City staff told Councillors they’ll be ready to report back on fees around October of this year.