By Lethbridge Herald on October 8, 2021.
“I’m not a fan of the City’s recycling/garbage collection/composting programs. By now every citizen has experienced the smell of garbage left in bins for two weeks. And keeping track of pick-up day is a nuisance. However, I’m afraid it may be too late to make any substantial changes, given the investment spent on bins, etc. And furthermore, I don’t believe the City is recovering much of the cost with what is being recycled. And I am very much opposed to the location of bins at curbside. Of course there is no choice in lane-less subdivisions, however most of the City has perfectly usable lanes for garbage/recycling pickup that are also better protected from our winds. No one wants to see rows of toppled blue bins with their lightweight content strewn about front yards and beyond.”
“I feel that although recycling/garbage collection/composting are vital to the community the communication of the aims and goals are not always made clear. Most agree that the amount of material going into the landfill needs to be reduced, that hazardous material needs to be properly dealt with, and the environment needs to be protected. What they don’t agree with are some of the decisions that are being made in how to do this. In a system that needs a large amount of buy-in and goodwill with those being served, decisions are often seen as being imposed with very little opportunity to have any say in the process. Many found out that garbage collection was moving to the front through a notice a few weeks before it happened. There was no build up to why it was happening and why it was important to do it. Composting was handled in a similar way. It was a done deal, after all it is only $4 month, ignoring the fact that there are those in the community on fixed incomes, and others who do not have space for another bin. There needs to be more communication with all of the stakeholders in the community and it may be necessary to form an advisory committee composed of private homeowners, environmental groups, apartment residents, private business groups, city personnel, and others to provide input. If there is better engagement, I believe the system will operate much more efficiently and harmoniously.”
“Regarding the present services for garbage and recycling, over the past few years our city has done a remarkable job of implementing and adopting the blue bin recycling program. This was done at great cost to our taxpayers and ushered in a new, but necessary phase of infrastructure and services for our city. I believe we have seen great success with the implementation of the newer ‘blue bin’ program. I also believe that this program has fulfilled its objective in encouraging a reduction of unnecessary waste that would otherwise end up in city landfills. The complication with the new green bin idea, is the cost of handling materials and who will pay for the infrastructure upgrades needed to handle these improvements. The simple answer is we need to focus on a future that involves reducing unnecessary costs. At the present time we simply don’t have the resource or the infrastructure to roll out a program for compost. Introducing such a program to appease a minute population in our city at this time would be both unwise and fiscally irresponsible. These resources would be better allocated to improve existing programs where they require it, and to explore or implement more cost effective ideas that would encourage future use of these types of programs to facilitate a future demand for such improvements within the City of Lethbridge.
“A more thorough assessment of the actual use of recycling and compostable materials (is necessary). There was inadequate consultation and communication regarding the transition to front street pick up. If the concern is damage to the alleyways, then a variety of vehicles might be more suitable. Even Westjet has moved away from one type of aircraft. I enjoy taking my recyclable materials to the three mega sites we have built for that purpose.”
“I feel the city has done a great job on their efforts to get the public to participate and use our recycling facilities and the carts supplied by the city. I myself have started to use the composting program located on the west side instead of placing branches and leaves in my garbage bin. The bins provided for our home plastics etc. are totally convenient. My concern is that we continue to seek a proper market for all the recyclables and that they do not end up in the landfill.”
“Waste management is one the fundamental responsibilities of any municipality. The decision to move bins to the street, instead of using alleyways where possible, has not been a wise decision. It is incredibly unsightly and problematic for some residents. It can even pose a security risk as a receptacle left unattended on the street for an extended period may suggest an occupant is away. With regards to the green bin program, this represents a huge expense with no effective benefit as many people already do their own composting. There are better ways to spend $5 million.”
“The environment and climate change have always been priorities for me, and with the current extreme weather events we are experiencing I am sure it is top of mind for most people. Our City’s recycling, composting, and waste reduction targets are just a few tools we have to ensure that every member of our community has the ability to make a positive change. I firmly believe that the programs the City has put in place allow our residents to easily be part of the solution rather than contributing to the climate problem. Reducing the amount of waste we send to our landfill, especially those materials that are the main drivers of climate change, makes sense both environmentally and economically. Landfills are incredibly difficult and expensive to site, and can be challenging and expensive to manage; extending the useful lifespan of our current landfill will allow Council to limit any added costs to our residents. Our cart (Black, Blue, and possibly Green) collection program has been incredibly successful and while there are challenges with some aspects of the program, it is one way Council was able to achieve efficiencies and again limit rising costs to our residents.”
“Lethbridge residents deserve and pay for high quality garbage collection and recycling services. I feel that generally speaking, garbage collection works well and is predictable and reliable. Recycling is important and keeps tons of materials out of our landfill. I have spent the last months asking business owners and residents to identify their top priorities for the new council and mayor. I have not received a single comment or complaint regarding garbage collection and recycling. This does not mean the system is perfect and I believe there are always opportunities to be more efficient and effective. I know there have been proposals for a city-wide composting program. Once again, this issue has never been identified as a particular priority amongst the business owners and residents I have spoken with. I have been told many times that taxes are too high and another imposed fee for residents would not be welcome. The great thing about composting is that people can do it at home. We can encourage composting and provide informative resources on how to compost. We can always re-examine a city-wide program in the future. It is not the time to impose another fee on our frustrated residents and business owners.”
“Currently the bi-weekly collection of refuse alternating with recycling is in place for residential customers. Although, when introduced, the recycling program attracted an additional fee, however as you know, the refuse collection was reduced to bi-weekly, essentially we are paying more for the same amount of collection services. Why?
Since the City took over the curbside recycling from private operators, it was always my position that residents who do not require the City curbside recycling should be afforded an “opt out” option. Similarly with the proposed compounding program, residents who do not want or need the service should not have to participate or be charged.
The City has never advised residents on the operations of the recycling program. Is there a market for recycled materials, if so, is the City selling the recycling? What revenue is generated from the sale of recycled materials? We know that one of the largest markets for recycled materials was China, and that they no longer accept this commodity. Where, if anywhere, is the recycling being marketed? If you can find out, as we have tried, please let me know!
Realistically, there are many residents, especially seniors, who do not need or want recycling services or composting services. While there are other residents that NEED weekly refuse pickup, particularly larger families. Although excess recycling may be taken to one of three City recycle stations, there is no option for excess refuse. What we see instead is overflowing garbage bins, birds carrying away material and (especially during hot summer days) reeking smells providing an unwelcomed fragrance in the neighbourhood. The recycling/garbage collection/composting programs are in need of review for possible restructuring or modification. I believe that these programs should be reviewed, and this review, with residents’ participation.
“I have reservations about the added costs to the taxpayer, and monthly fees now associated with this service. Residents and taxpayers are getting nickel and dimed from every which way, while the cost of living increases exponentially. Although not a large fee for many of our residents, those who can least afford another cost, are faced with another expense. The city already supports and sells the use of the black composting bins making access and ease of use readily available. I believe we should have not moved forward with this initiative as fiscal budget pressures are only increasing, not decreasing.”
“A common thread that has emerged from among the electorate, is unquestionably related to cost of living. During the 2017 election, people generally questioned the feasibility of the recycling program, displacing several businesses already engaged in the industry. The additional administration charges ended up being added to the city utilities bill. Although smaller amounts, $5 here, $10 there, it all adds up. Income statistics show that Canadians are increasingly carrying a larger debt load. This must be factored into future decisions. Subsequent collaboration with private recyclers has seen general acceptance of the curbside recycling program. When it comes to the next phase, the organic waste collection program, a majority of residents surveyed are in favour of organic waste collection. It would make disposing of yard waste a more convenient process, in addition to diverting the 57 per cent of current organic waste ending up in landfill, to the organic waste processing facility. Again, it is important to conduct a proper cost/benefit analysis before making any definitive decisions.”
“These programs are essential in the city’s plan for reducing and managing waste. There are many social and environmental benefits to recycling and we need to protect our planet for future generations. Reducing our carbon footprint is an integral part of it.”
“The regional recycling depots that existed prior to the ‘blue bin’ program had an 85 per cent participation rate; that is, our citizens were using the three drop off points in great numbers. Residents often recycled while they were in the process of doing other activities such as shopping. The reality is that residents are responsible for only 25 per cent of recycled material and, with an 85 per cent participation rate, there was no real need to introduce the curbside program. The blue bin program, which required an additional monthly fee and a reduction in regular waste pickup actually increased residential recycling by a very small fraction. Not only was there an extra cost added to our utility bills but we have to put up with waste collection every two weeks as opposed to weekly. In the summer, as many have noted, the odor of waste having to remain in bins for two weeks is extremely unpleasant. To make matters worse, not all recycling materials can go into the blue bin such as glass products which still require these products to be recycled elsewhere. The fact is that 75 per cent of waste that could be recycled comes from commercial, industrial and institutional sources who often find it more convenient and cheaper just to treat the material as waste. In short, my belief is that adding a third bin for composting should be abandoned and that real efforts be made to have greater participation in the recycling program by those consumers who are actually responsible for generating most of the recycling material and not actually recycling it.”
“The current waste and recycling plan was years in the making and involved significant public consultation. Called the Residential Waste Diversion Strategy, it was approved in 2015 and was designed to be implemented in steps. Curbside recycling was introduced in 2019 and organic recycling will be implemented in 2023. Waste audits show that over half of what is being thrown away in the black bins is organic waste. Some people might assume there is no problem with organics being thrown into the landfill as they mistakenly believe organics will rot/decompose in the landfill. Unfortunately, that’s not true. In fact, the opposite is the case and rather than biodegrading in the anaerobic (non-oxygen) environment of the landfill, organics persist for years and release methane, a large contributor to climate change and an air polluter. As well, organics in the landfill cause landfill leachate, which is described as toxic soup, and is not only dangerous, but expensive to manage. Along with the environmental reasons for organic recycling, there are also economic ones. If organics are diverted from the landfill, this extends the life of the landfill and saves the community money. As well, the compost developed from organic recycling can either be sold by the community (another revenue generator) or save community members money if it is offered free for yard use.
Organic recycling and waste diversion will economically and environmentally support our community.”
“Based on presentations to Council, the black/blue bin program is working well to achieve the goal of diverting recyclables from the landfill, and the City is achieving some targets. To keep costs down, residents have a role to play by keeping recyclable materials out of our garbage. Protecting the environment, keeping our city sustainable, meeting GHG targets, and reducing the need to buy land to bury garbage require solutions that reduce waste (more on this coming at jennschmidtrempel.ca). Council has approved $10.6 million for the green bin program starting in 2023. I believe the next Council should consider pausing the planned rollout to review the 2016 Waste Management Strategy and explore solutions for biodegradable waste that includes green bins, home composters, expanded yard waste sites, etc. – understanding the costs and benefits of each. The decision must be data-driven, effective, and not just a feel-good measure. I’m disappointed we didn’t support local businesses offering curbside recycling when blue bins were implemented; perhaps this could be examined with green bins. I have heard from some residents whose bins have moved from the alley to the street. These conversations have two common themes: the decision came without neighbourhood input, and the approach seems to be one size fits all. Part of the issue is that garbage trucks are too heavy for alleys. Fair enough. Ultimately though, City departments need to partner with residents to explore neighbourhood-generated options before deciding what is best for us. One size fits all doesn’t fit everyone!”
“The waste program at the City of Lethbridge is an important utility to the citizens. Subsequently, the issue to our waste reduction is important to the lifespan of the landfill and we should look at ways to increase that lifespan as opportunity presents itself. The three bin system once matured can evolve potentially to a ‘pay as you throw’ (PAYT) materials management model, where you would pay for what you put out at the curb. However, until such a time, we need to monitor our progress and adjust the system in neighbourhood consultation with the residents to make sure that we are moving forward as a community. The collection system must be delivered in a way which allows homeowners and neighbourhoods to have a say on what works best for all stakeholders. The city must strive to continually improve on collaboration.
Collaboration is the key to success.”
“Municipalities take on many services for the benefit of residents. Garbage collection and recycling is one of those. Like any service, the City must ensure that this meets the needs of residents; is cost-effective; and supports any wider obligations the City has, including those involving good stewardship of municipal land resources and relationships with neighbouring municipalities. Occasionally, questions are raised over whether the City should be providing any particular service, and whether private business could instead meet those needs. These are always fair questions, and lend themselves to no easy answers. In the case of garbage collection/recycling, however, avoiding competition with the market must be secondary to ensuring continuous, efficient and cost-effective service to residents. Council recently approved the addition of a compost (‘green bin’) component to its garbage/recycling services. Some have questioned the costs of the required infrastructure, and the additional cost to residents to fund the compost collection. This is understandable: no one enjoys paying more, without receiving more. And while it may be difficult to see what we are getting above the current level of service, a composting program makes sense as part of overall garbage/recycling services. The amount of food/yard waste a city generates is massive, and composting it can provide environmental and economic benefits to our region. Back-alley garbage collection has also been raised by some. I am prepared and committed to inquire into this with city administration; if we can reasonably accommodate back-alley pickup, I will urge council to make this happen.”
“I think overall the programs notes are working quite well but I do think that the planned start of the composting program should be delayed until we find a way to make it a ‘user pay’ system where citizens only pay for the amount they actually recycle, rather than a set monthly fee per household.”
“The City is long overdue in implementing environmentally sound policies and this is something our City has struggled with for a very long time. Our recycling program was very late in its implementation, and still severely limited. I think the City would benefit heavily from an organics collection program similar to Calgary’s, which provides free compost to the community each year made from the organic waste. I’m disappointed that we are paying so much extra for these programs, and only receiving garbage pick-up once fortnightly. To my mind, garbage pick-up should have remained on a weekly schedule with these other services (which we pay a high price for) added in. In addition to residential recycling and organics, I would like to see the City offer a commercial program as well for small local businesses. Many restaurants would benefit from these programs as there is no longer a local option for organics waste collection. With such a high number of food service businesses in the City, I’m surprised a commercial program is not already in place. As food decomposition is slow in landfills (25 years to break down a head of lettuce) due to lack of oxygen, an organics collection program with proper composting would help reduce our landfill load significantly and benefit the community. I would be interested in pursuing how to make these systems more user-friendly and efficient if elected.”
“I can responsibly support a cost-effective and efficient recycling, garbage collection and composting program in the City of Lethbridge. Yes, it is easy to say. The challenge will always be the implementation of processes and the management of resources to accomplish that. Especially when fiscal and land resources are limited. As a councilor, it will be necessary to become more aware of the challenges experienced by the people working in this essential service. What needs to be done, what needs to be planned for, and what resources can be responsibly allocated to maintain and improve the program? These are inherited questions and debate that this new council will have to take over after becoming familiar with what is working, what isn’t working and what is recommended by operations management and staff. I believe my job on council is not to manage the experts, who know what they are doing, but rather assist in providing opportunity for the innovation and adaptation of the department along with promoting community cooperation from our community as those who directly benefit from the collection services every week.”
“When I was on City Council we debated blue bin recycling in 2017 (approved in 2018), we intended it to be phase one of a curbside program. Phase two was an organics program, but the last Council did not discuss it in any detail. Approximately 55 to 60 per cent of solid household waste is organics and diverting this from the landfill would have the largest impact on meeting diversion targets. Further, there is no question of the financial and environmental benefit of diverting compostable material from the landfill; we will extend the life of the landfill, delay millions of dollars needed for expansion, and save on perpetual costs of managing GHGs. However, I understand the hesitancy for people to use green bins. It is a very different program. Other municipalities have run successful green bin programs for decades. However, with the exception of a limited survey, it has been five years since the City truly discussed the organic program with our community. I believe that it would be prudent to suspend any capital investment in the organics program until further community engagement is done and more information is provided on the sustainability of a green bin program, including the information received from the pilot program of 2000 homes which was approved by Council in June.”
“There are many issues currently with the city’s waste and recycling pick up programs. Many people, myself included, say that garbage pickup is too infrequent. If we miss a week, then there is only garbage pickup once a month, which is not ideal for many families. In addition to this, waste collection fees increased when recycling was introduced, even though the number of pickups remained once a week (alternating recycling and garbage). We should explore returning garbage collection to a weekly schedule, which is a similar approach to what other local communities employ. As for the upcoming green bin program, there needs to be more transparency and public consultation. Eleven million dollars has been allocated for piloting this program without our voice being heard. In fact, a motion for more public engagement was defeated during the deliberations on this program back in June. There is no reason to rush any decision without allowing us, the people impacted the most, to have our say! The city has decided to move garbage collection from back alleys to front yards for some neighbourhoods. There appears to be little benefit from this decision, and it is quite unpopular, as it is creating more headaches for many of us on collection day. All decisions, especially ones that have high levels of disapproval from our community, require communication and the opportunity for us to understand the reasons behind them. If, at that point, this decision remains unpopular with no strong defence, it should be reversed.”
“I believe diverting material from our city landfill is very important and many residents that I’ve talked with agree. I’m pleased that our city has moved forward with an organics collection program to complement the existing residential recycling and refuse collection. I would also like to see recycling and organics collection in our parks, public areas, and restaurants. The more material we can divert from our city’s landfill the better.”