By Lethbridge Herald on October 2, 2017.
Originally published Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Taking out the trash will have a new meaning for Lethbridge residents, beginning in 2018.
City council voted 8-1 in favour of ramping up community waste diversion by introducing residential curbside recycling. The decision was an about face from the one made in January in which council voted 5-4 against a similar resolution proposed by Councillor Bridget Mearns.
It was put back on the agenda after two councillors who previously voted against it, Liz Iwaskiw and Rob Miyashiro, said they “changed their minds.”
Iwaskiw said she questioned the necessity of a municipal curbside recycling program in the past.
“But since council last considered this issue, it has become apparent to me that if our community is going to make a meaningful reduction in the amount of garbage we dispose of, we need everyone involved,” she said.
Council approved the Residential Waste Diversion Strategy put forward to Finance Committee in November 2015, and agreed to move forward with a pilot curbside recycling program in select areas of the city in 2018.
Full implementation of bi-weekly residential curbside recycling (blue bin) collection would come in 2019, with a change to bi-weekly waste (black bin) collection.
The new program will provide blue carts to each household for curbside collection of unsorted recyclables every two weeks. Waste and recycling collection would be picked up on alternating weeks.
“I think we’ve beat this to death,” said Miyashiro. “I think we’ve had great discussions since I’ve been on council, and even before, during the campaign, this has been an issue for a lot of people.”
As council is considering projects to be included in the upcoming 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program, funding would be needed to implement curbside recycling.
Council directed city administration to prepare two projects for the 2018-2027 CIP required for the design and construction of a materials recovery facility (estimated to cost $12 million), as well as for collection equipment needed for curbside recycling.
Administration also received direction to prepare a plan for council to consider in 2019 for a residential curbside organics (green bin) collection program.
Council also directed city administration to establish a consultation committee with the city’s private recycling collection sector. This committee will explore potential opportunities for existing businesses to participate in the program.
The new curbside program is projected to add $7 to monthly residential utility bills. These fees are expected to go into effect just prior to full implementation. Once the MRF is operational, the sale of the recyclable materials is expected to help offset a portion of the overall cost of the curbside program.
“The fee will pay for the program. The fee will pay all of the financing costs,” said Miyashiro. “So I think once that MRF is paid for, hopefully there will be a smaller fee moving down the line in the future.”
As the landfill purchase is close to being paid off, residents will also see a $2 monthly reduction in their Landfill Utility Charge next year, to disappear altogether by 2024.
“I think we really need to look at the big picture,” said Miyashiro. After a presentation from Waste & Recycling Services at last week’s Finance Committee meeting detailed a total of $33.54 million in costs involved with expanding the landfill, Miyashiro said his eyes were opened.
“If we can reduce that cost and extend the life of our landfill for another 30 to 40 years, we’ve saved money and we’re doing the right thing for the environment.”
It’s estimated that just 20 per cent of residential waste is diverted from the landfill. With the introduction of blue-cart curbside recycling, that number is expected to increase to 35 per cent in 2019.
In a 2013 survey, 80 per cent of Lethbridge residents said they would support a curbside recycling program, with convenience and the environment listed as their top two reasons.
Mayor Chris Spearman called it an “exciting step forward” that will help the city reach its waste-disposal targets of 30-per-cent overall per-capita waste reduction by 2021 and 50 per cent by 2030.
“Residential curbside recycling is something city council has researched, consulted and debated for more than two years. I’m proud we’re doing something tangible to reduce our community’s impact on the environment,” he said.
Currently, Lethbridge generates 1,150 kilograms per capita of waste annually from all residential and non-residential sources that is disposed of in the landfill. The waste-reduction targets aim to reduce that figure to 795 kg per capita by 2021 and 600 kg per capita by 2030.
The city has already begun implementing a strategy to reduce waste disposal from the business sector by 25 per cent by 2021 and 45 per cent by 2030. It targets waste from the industrial/commercial/institutional (ICI) and the construction and demolition (C&D) sectors, which account for about 75 per cent of material disposed of in the landfill each year.
Not everyone was happy with council’s decision. A few residents in the audience expressed displeasure with the result, shouting “fire them” and “totally unfair.”
Coun. Joe Mauro had proposed postponing a decision until “everything could be in front” of them at a Finance Committee or Community Issues meeting.
Coun. Jeff Carlson said the reasons Mauro proposed to postpone were exactly the reasons why they shouldn’t postpone.
“We’ve been dealing with this for years,” said Carlson. “We’ve got all the information. We’ve had all the information. It’s up to council to vote one way or the other.”
The city’s current recycling stations will remain open to complement curbside collection. They will remain available 24 hours for residents who have additional or large-item recycling and will continue to provide convenient locations for yard waste drop-off.
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