Sunday, August 28, 2011

11 County Options for Residential Waste

The following are the 11 residential waste disposal options that have been prepared by County staff for Council consideration (August 2011).  All options are intended to reduce the amount of waste put out to the curb.

1) Pay As You Throw (PAYT)

This option to further restrict curbside garbage was determined to be the most appropriate option for the County through the Waste Management Strategy process. Pay As You Throw Refers to the fact that all garbage bag(s) must have a tag affixed or waste must be contained in special identifiable bags in order to be collected. This type of system has the potential to result in both a reduction in waste generation and increased waste diversion based on a financial incentive to reduce garbage disposed.
A full user pay system for garbage can be more equitable as residents pay for the garbage that they are actually producing rather than the existing system where residents that generate little garbage and are doing a good job of diverting waste are, in effect, subsidizing those that produce more garbage. While there is an adjustment for residents to pay ‘out of pocket’ for weekly garbage collection, municipalities with similar programs have found less controversy after implementation if they have had good promotion and education to inform the public in advance and provide good support after implementation. The County would implement an extensive promotion and education campaign to ensure residents are fully informed and also ensure that additional Customer Service staff is in place. Other ways to mitigate concerns and ease residents into the change would be to work with collection staff on how to respond appropriately to non-compliance; and to have a plan for mitigating the perception of illegal dumping by tracking before and after implementation.
A Pay As You Throw system would potentially address seasonal residents concerns about the cost of waste services. Additional issues are encountered with residents in municipalities that apply the waste levy based on assessment values rather than the actual cost of service. This results in a resident with a valuable waterfront property having a very high assessment paying significantly more for waste services than the actual cost of service and not receiving the benefit of service year round (the method by which the County waste levy is collected remains at the prerogative of the Town or Township, County staff’s recommendation is for the levy to be applied on a per unit basis. In a Pay as you Throw scenario many servicing issues for both seasonal residents and in the Industrial, Commercial & Institutional sector would be addressed.
There are a number of options with respect to Pay as you Throw including:
a) the full user pay system where revenue from tag/bag sales is used to cover the cost of garbage collection and disposal thereby eliminating these costs from municipal taxes and levies (the cost of diversion programs would remain),

b) a subsidized system where only the disposal costs would be covered by the cost of the tag with the collection cost remaining on the levy, or

c) a hybrid system which would cover garbage disposal as well as a reserve fund for upcoming capital expenses such as a central composting facility.

It is noted that the issue with a more complex subsidized or hybrid system is that it is more difficult to effectively mitigate the misconception of ‘paying twice’ through both property taxes and through a per bag cost.

2) Status quo with significant cost increase for tags

This option would keep the existing one untagged bag but significantly increase the cost of bag tags for additional garbage, thereby allowing residents the flexibility for additional garbage while discouraging their use on a regular basis. The Strategy suggested that, if this option were chosen, the price of bag tags increase from the current $2 each to $4 per tag. The increased cost of bag tags would provide some monetary incentive to residents to do their part to reduce waste and divert materials through the existing blue box and green bin programs if they are not already doing so. However, the change to an increased cost of tags does not provide an incentive to further reduce or divert waste for those already able to meet the one untagged bag limit. Staff notes that the usage of additional bag tags for extra garbage in the County is minor with an average only 2 tags per household purchased in 2010. Therefore, increasing the cost of tags would likely only have a limited effect on waste generation and diversion rates for the majority of households. While the tag price may double, the revenue from tags would likely not increase by double as some residents may take their extra bags directly to a waste facility which would also result in increased wait times at the facilities.

3) Fixed one bag limit (similar to Adjala-Tosorontio)

This option would mirror the program utilized in Adjala-Tosorontio, where residents are permitted to place only one bag per week at the curb and do not have the option to purchase tags for additional garbage. In theory, placing a fixed one bag limit forces residents to use diversion programs to their full potential and keep garbage generation at a minimum, as there is no other option for curbside garbage disposal. The change to a fixed one bag limit does provide incentive for those residents generating greater than one bag of garbage per week, however it does not provide an incentive to further reduce or divert waste for those who are already able to meet the one bag limit.
This option would also remove all flexibility for additional garbage should a resident have a medical need for additional waste or as a result of clean ups, special events, etc. It is noted that while a fixed one bag limit would result in a reduction in the amount of garbage collected at curbside, it could potentially result in a significant increase in the amount of garbage delivered to waste management facilities by residents. An analysis of residential garbage drop off by municipality from the period of January 2011 to June 2011 indicates that Adjala-Tosorontio residents deliver an average of 16.3 kgs of garbage/hhld/month versus the County average of 8.7 kgs of garbage/hhld/month. This significant increase in traffic to County waste management facilities could necessitate the addition of new waste management facilities in order to adequately manage this traffic. The increased difficulty in disposing of additional garbage could result in an increase of contamination rates in the recycling and organics streams, illegal dumping, or an increase in residents managing waste on their own properties through back yard burn barrels or other means that may have an environmental impact (e.g., burn barrels have been noted by the US EPA as being the largest human source of dioxins and furans).
In this option bag tag revenues of approximately $450,000 annually would be eliminated from the budget, but would be partly offset by increased revenues at waste facilities, the amount of which is unknown.

4) Clear bag program

This option was not scheduled for consideration until year five (5) of the Strategy as it was included as a contingency to be utilized if one of the three (3) recommended restriction options outlined above were not as successful as anticipated.
A clear bag program is one where every bag of waste that is put out for curbside collection must be clear in order to allow collections staff to visually inspect the material and refuse collection if the garbage is seen to contain divertible materials. This type of program is more of an enforcement based program than an incentive based program. Clear bag programs can be successful in driving waste diversion (ie. getting residents to fully participate in blue box and green bin programs) but does not assist in reducing waste generation.
Staff has concerns with this type of program due to potential privacy issues and note if Council were to direct staff towards this type of program that more detailed research and legal advice into the privacy implications and any other infringements are necessary. This topic was discussed some time ago with a representative of the Information and Privacy Commission. Although the Commission directed staff to documentation that addressed relevant privacy considerations, they were unable to provide further guidance on the matter noting their obligation to remain impartial in the event that they were required to investigate and render a decision related to a privacy complaint.
Some potential workarounds to the privacy issue include allowing residents to place the clear bag within a garbage pail mitigating some privacy concerns while allowing monitoring of the contents by collections personnel; or allowing one opaque bag within the clear bag to contain sensitive items. If allowing an opaque bag inside the clear bag was permitted an issue is that the opaque bag may not be large enough for adult sized diapers and that it reduces the effectiveness of the clear bag program by enabling divertible materials to be hidden in the garbage. Other municipalities have also noted that there were issues with respect to the availability of suitable clear bags at retail outlets as well as issues with residents not being able to utilize small, typically white, kitchen garbage bags to contain garbage.
Another major issue with this type of program is that it puts significant pressure on collections staff for enforcement, potentially resulting in increased collection costs, and on County Customer Services resources to address complaints. Frequently the County’s Customer Service Centre receives calls where residents feel that their neighbours are receiving special treatment with respect to garbage collections. Judgment calls will be needed to collect a bag that contains perhaps a couple small divertible items versus a bag that contains one very visible divertible item, in addition there is a human error component on the part of the residents and on the part of collections staff. The purpose of a clear bag system is to encourage diversion through enforcement rather than incentive. Enforcement by the collection contractor needs to be consistent which can be difficult to achieve as they hire many drivers and often have high staff turnover. This would require that the County have staff dedicated to monitoring the enforcement of the clear bag system by the collection contractor. Escalated issues from residents would also require an enforcement officer to resolve and possibly enforce fines.
It is noted that Durham Region and Markham piloted clear bag programs, Durham Region found that the clear bag program only increased diversion by 3-7%, while Markham found that the clear bag program actually had a detrimental effect on diversion performance. Both municipalities ultimately chose not to implement a clear bag program.

5) Bi-weekly garbage collection

A growing number of Ontario municipalities have switched to biweekly garbage collection, most recently the City of Ottawa Council approved a move to biweekly collection. The Waste Management Strategy identified that this option should not be considered until it is possible to expand the green bin program to process to include the more odorous waste materials (diapers, feminine hygiene products and pet waste) to mitigate resident’s concerns regarding the retention of these materials in the household for two weeks. The Strategy suggests this option may only be reasonably available for consideration until approximately Year 7 of the Solid Waste Management Strategy implementation period at which time a County owned composting facility may be operational. It is noted that management of these more odorous materials is challenging and requires high-tech processing systems. Approvals and permitting for these types of composting facilities is complex and staff understands that the Ministry of Environment has declined recent applications from proponents seeking approval for these items with the noted exception of the City of Toronto’s anaerobic digestion facility.
Modeling of collection services in the County during the Strategy process indicated that there may be some savings associated with the move to bi-weekly garbage collection. There are a variety of co-collection and offsetting schedules that could be explored. One option would be to simultaneously move to single stream recycling with the switch to bi-weekly collection. This would allow single stream recycling to be co-collected with organics in one truck weekly, while garbage would be collected in a separate truck for half of the County one week, and the other half of the County the following week. This method would result in savings due to the reduced need for trucks and staff; because garbage collection throughout the County is spread out over two weeks instead of one, there would be fewer garbage trucks required on the road each week. However, it should be noted that although there are savings to be had in the collection of materials, there are offsetting increased costs due to increased tip out frequency at transfer stations of the co-collection trucks as well as the higher cost associated with the processing single stream recyclables. While reducing the frequency of garbage collection has been demonstrated to increase the residential capture rates of divertible materials, (capture rate being the amount of divertible materials that are successfully collected in the blue/grey bin and green bin programs out of all divertible materials generated), it does not reduce waste generation rates and may result in significant increases in contamination rates in the blue box and green bin programs.
Significant consideration is required for the challenges of bi-weekly service due to weather related collections impacts and the high number of seasonal residents. If a collection were missed due to weather or due to a resident being away on the scheduled garbage collection day, it would result in garbage not being collected for a month.

6) Uniform Collection Service

The Waste Management Strategy recommends that the County transition to a truly uniform collection service with the next collection contract and that the definition of ‘eligible’ serviced unit be revisited in order that collection of garbage, organics and recyclables is provided where reasonable. Public consultation during the Waste Management Strategy process indicated that the majority of residents were in favour of a uniform level of collection service. The Waste Management Strategy recommended that the definition of an ‘eligible’ serviced unit be re-examined, particularly with respect to seasonal areas, although there are significant inequities occurring in the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (Industrial, Commercial & Institutional) sector as well. Background information on issues within these two sectors are provided below:

a) Seasonal

Historically, the County has provided residential curbside collection services only on those roads which received service prior to County assumption of waste management. Additional areas of service were added when municipal amalgamation occurred in 1994 particularly in Severn Township where many areas had not received waste collection services previously. Currently, many roads in seasonal areas are very small and not maintained to municipal standards. Typically, residents on small and private roads receive curbside collection if the truck can access the street and turn around safely. Many roads however only receive collection at central collection points, meaning residents must bring materials out to common collection point where their road meets an accessible route. These common collection points have significant issues as it is impossible to enforce bag limits, ownership of waste is not identifiable, litter from animals getting into garbage and illegal dumping of unacceptable materials are also major concerns. As units without ‘ownership of waste’ were not eligible for the green bin program, seasonal areas utilizing common collection points have also remained at the previous two bag limit for garbage.

In order to provide collection services to seasonal areas consistent with those provided to other residents in the County, the new collections request for proposal would require that the collection contractor service highly seasonal areas early in the week and that they use specialized collection vehicles in order to access even small roads. This would enable ownership of waste making enforcement of bag limits and provision of green bin services viable.

b) Industrial, Commercial & Institutional (IC&I)

When the County assumed responsibility for waste management in 1990 it generally maintained the same service for Industrial, Commercial, & Institutional (IC&I) locations as was provided by the local municipality. This means that in some municipalities services are provided to IC&I locations situated in downtown areas, in some municipalities collection services are provided to any IC&I location that requested it, and in other municipalities little to no service was provided to IC&I locations. In 2007, staff sought direction from Council with respect to IC&I locations through Item WMS 07-004, the report resulted in direction from Council to maintain the status quo i.e. not adding any additional IC&I locations but to not take away service from those locations already receiving it. This resulted in waste collection service being grandfathered at a variety of IC&I locations and as no new services were to be added to the IC&I sector they were not eligible for the green bin program and maintained their previous bag limit.
Over time, Waste Management staff have worked to compile a list of locations where IC&I service is provided, however, the list is incomplete and there is significant disparity between what is on the listing and what is actually receiving collection. For example, during the summer of 2010 the Solid Waste Management Department co-op student was tasked with determining the extent of IC&I collections: in some municipalities it was found that many more IC&I locations were actually receiving collection service than what we were aware of. This is due to the lack of information with respect to IC&I locations when the County took direct responsibility for collections, and due to the fact that reviewing of lengthy lists is onerous to collection staff. In some cases IC&I locations were found to be receiving excessive garbage collection service and in majority of cases IC&I locations were found not to be participating in waste diversion programs. The current system is inequitable and does not encourage diversion in the IC&I sector.
This option would not have an impact on the diversion and waste generation rates of the majority of the populace. This option would however serve to increase waste diversion in the seasonal and IC&I sectors by providing curbside recycling and green bin services as well as the same level of garbage collection as the rest of the County. This could reduce waste generation in the sectors affected and should be considered in concert with the next option, implementation of a maximum bag limit.

7) Maximum Bag Limit

Typically the County’s program is referred to as having a one bag limit, this is a misnomer as the County’s program is more correctly termed a partial user pay system where residents and businesses are permitted a quantity of ‘eligible’ bag(s) without tags. Residents and businesses must purchase tags for additional garbage over the ‘eligible’ bags, currently there is no limit to the number of tagged bags able to be collected. In 2010, data indicates that 258,470 tags were distributed, indicating an average distribution of only 2.0 tags per serviced unit annually (not including Adjala-Tosorontio). Excessive waste is generally not a significant issue in the residential sector however, in some instances residential units choosing not to participate in the County’s diversion program produce larger than normal amounts of garbage which they simply affix tags to.
The major issue stems from IC&I locations, which currently have a variety of bag limits depending on the municipality, bag limits may be two (2) bags, five (5) bags or, in some situations, remains almost unlimited. Due to the variation of bag limits for the IC&I sector it is difficult to enforce bag limits due to difficulties in determining and tracking the number of individual units on a serviced property and the arduousness of referring to lengthy lists of multi-unit locations by collections staff. Some IC&I locations produce significant volumes (in excess of 50 bags weekly) of garbage over and above what should reasonably be collected curbside. In some cases it is impractical for the County to continue collection of large amounts of garbage at IC&I locations for a variety of reasons including health and safety, space limitations, traffic flow, and for roadside aesthetics. While uniformity as to who receives collection is very desirable it is not practical to limit IC&I locations to a single bag, nor is it practical for the County to continue to provide collection services to large generators of waste or to continue with the current system of disparity between locations. Depending on the option(s) selected by Council, larger generators of waste may find it more efficient or economical to utilize the services of a private contractor for front end or bin collection services rather than purchasing tags in a Pay as you throw program or if a strict one bag limit were implemented. Regardless of the system selected, some limit on the total number of eligible and tagged bags permitted for collection at a property should be considered by Council. Staff recommends that the maximum number of tagged bags to be collected from any property be no more than 10.
This option would serve to increase waste diversion and reduce waste generation in some locations such as those which are large generators of waste and/or those who do not participate in County curbside diversion programs but would not likely have an impact on the general populace.

8) Tag Mail Out

This option is essentially a variation on the County’s existing partial user pay system. In this type of program the municipality mails each property owner a prescribed number of tags annually and residents must place a tag on each bag put out at the curb in order to be eligible for collection. This method allows residents the flexibility to use as many tags as they wish when it is convenient for them (ie seasonal residents) and if residents run out of tags they would be required to purchase additional tags from retail outlets. The City of Orillia currently mails out 30 tags annually (equivalent to one bag of garbage bi-weekly, plus four additional bags) and the Town of Penetanguishene previously had mailed out tags to residents. County staff understands that the logistics of tag mail out are extremely difficult. Issues include: the lack of security upon delivery to some mailboxes, the lag time for records to be updated when a resident moves, the potential delay or inappropriate distribution of tags by property owners to their rental tenants, occupants that move and take their allotment of tags with them leaving new occupants with none, etc. Further, the County does not have access to tax roll information which would significantly hinder a tag mail out system. If this option were selected, the local municipalities could conduct the mail out on behalf of the County and would require all the municipalities to concur with this option.
It is noted that a mail out of tags would not serve to increase waste diversion nor reduce waste generation unless there was a significant reduction in the number of tags provided from the current one eligible bag per week. In order to facilitate waste reduction and diversion it is vital that there be a significant reduction from the current one bag/week system. An acceptable amount of tags would need to be determined, for example 26 tags annually/hhld, which would work out to one bag of garbage bi-weekly (every other week). Additional tags could be purchased at retail outlets for those requiring additional bags as is the current practice. Cost of additional tags would be determined. The number of tags mailed out to each household would be consistent across all municipalities. This method may have the opposite effect as intended in highly seasonal municipalities as these residents could potentially utilize an entire years worth of tags within the summer.

9) RecycleBank (incentive program)

Typically municipalities utilize restrictions on curbside garbage as a way to motivate increased recycling, essentially restrictions can be considered a ‘stick’. The RecycleBank concept is a unique program which provides incentive to increase recycling participation and capture rates through a reward points program, essentially it is a ‘carrot’.
The RecycleBank incentive program was founded in 2004 in Philadelphia and is now in 29 U.S. states and in over 300 communities in both the United States and United Kingdom. The program works by electronically measuring the amount of material each home recycles at curbside then issuing RecycleBank points based on the amount of material collected. The points can be used by residents at participating local stores and national partners such as the Coca Cola Company, Home Depot, Kraft Foods, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.

Recycling is not commonplace in the United States therefore it would be difficult to draw comparisons with the potential impact such a program would have in the County. However, data from a recent RecycleBank pilot project in Chicago, which had a well established recycling program, indicated a 35% increase in their recycling rate. In the County’s case, the blue box program is already extremely successful with a capture rates of approximately 80% therefore the RecycleBank program would likely have only a small impact. However, although RecycleBank in the U.S. has focused on recycling incentives, it may be possible to also utilize this incentive program to promote participation in the County’s green bin program as this is where the greatest potential for improvement is. Staff understands the RecycleBank would only provide an incentive for organics if it were done concurrent with recycling.

RecycleBank negotiates contracts with the municipalities based on a monthly fee per household but can also utilize a hybrid system with a lower per household fee combined with a share of avoided disposal costs. It is noted the fee for the RecycleBank program would be somewhat offset by increased revenues for recyclable commodities however this is not the case with respect to organics. With this type of program it is prudent to include performance requirements for the program such that if desired diversion rates are not achieved costs would be reduced.

This option would serve to increase waste diversion but would not have an impact on waste generation rates.

10) Expansion of the Blue Box program

The Waste Management Strategy recommended that the County take direct responsibility for blue box processing in the near future which would gain efficiencies and allow expansion of the items collected in the program. Currently, the County’s waste collection service providers are contractually responsible for the provision of blue box processing services, with the exception of the four north Simcoe municipalities which have blue box material processing through the County’s small and antiquated material recovery facility. This current system has a number of deficiencies including limiting the County’s ability to add new items to the blue box program. A separate processing contract would increase the County’s ability to include new materials in the blue box program.
Staff stays abreast of developments in recyclables markets and understands that some previously difficult to market and low revenue commodities have improved over time and that thermoform plastics (clamshells) in particular have undergone some significant market developments recently. Staff has been working with the various waste collection contractors and anticipates the addition of mixed rigid plastics #1-7 including thermoform plastics in the near future. Staff estimates that the inclusion of these additional products to the County’s blue box program would result in approximately a 3.6% increase in blue box tonnages, meaning that this option will serve to increase waste diversion of approximately 1% but it would not have an impact on waste generation rates. However, implementation of this option concurrent with another option which further restricts curbside garbage would significantly improve public acceptance of that other option.

Implementation of this option would require a significant promotion and education campaign and should be considered in concert with the next option, increased recycling container capacity.

11) Increased Recycling Container Capacity

The Waste Management Strategy recommended that during 2011 a review of waste audit data be performed to determine if there is a need to increase recycling container capacity. It is noted that if the blue box program is expanded in the future it would increase the need for larger recycling box capacity. The Blue Box Program Enhancement and Best Practices Assessment Project states that if sufficient container capacity is not provided to match the set out volume and frequency of collection, then there is the potential that additional recyclables might be placed into the garbage.
The capacity of the current recycling bin provided by the County is 16 gallons. Participation study data indicates that, on average, recycling containers are at or very near capacity when placed out for collection with paper fibre boxes being full 94% of the time and container boxes being full at 89% of the time. This indicates that a move to increase the capacity of the County’s recycling container would be prudent, particularly with the anticipated additions to the recycling program.
Staff is pleased to report that there is some significant CIF funding available for larger 22 gallon recycling boxes if the municipality concurrently expands their blue box program to include additional plastics as described in option 10 above. It would therefore be sensible to obtain and distribute larger recycling boxes as part of the communications plan for recycling program expansion.
Provision of larger recycling containers may serve to increase recyclables capture rates and therefore increase diversion rates however, it would not have an impact on waste generation rates.

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