A Director's View - Organic Waste Collection Pilot by Susan Bracken
An organics collection pilot program is underway at a dozen hi-rise condos in Barrie. It will last all year. In 2017, pending Council approval, the program will be phased in to other hi-rise condos and apartments in the City. At that time the city will provide pick-up of all three streams (garbage, recycling, organics) to condo corporations using the organics program, and those corporations will have the option to quit their private haulage contracts. This will effectively end some of the overlapping costs condos have been subject to for municipal taxation plus private haulage costs.
The City has been collecting organics from private homes for some time. From January to November 2015 the City diverted 3400 tonnes of organic waste, which represents a volume of approximately 4500m3 in saved landfill. This is crucial for all of us (private home owners and condo owners alike) because once the landfill is full very expensive waste management alternatives will raise taxes for all of us.
The financial implications are important, but so too, are the environmental ones. Food waste in landfills creates methane gas which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
It is very early days (the program began mid January), but response from the test condos has ranged from "extremely positive" to "positive with need for improvement". Because many of the residents at the selected condos are retirees, there is a high vacancy rate during the winter, so significant numbers of residents will not get their bins and bags and instructions until Spring.
An issue that needs to be addressed is management of the change in the method of handling our garbage. We can no longer just put most of it down the chutes. Organics must be kept totally separate and placed in a sealed paper or compostable bag. Because most of our garbage is recyclables and organics this means that the smallest portion will now go down the chutes and the residents have to carry the larger portions down to the garbage rooms. That is unfortunate but at this time there is no obvious solution. Buildings cannot renovate to create extra chutes. Use of the chutes for organics creates the problems of possible broken bags (and the attendant mess in the receptacle) and contamination from regular garbage from residents who forget or simply don't adhere to the new rules. The contractor who picks up the organics does not have a truck able to pick up large bins, and he will not pick up organics that have plastic or regular garbage mixed in.
So, for now, residents carry down their recyclables and organics and place them in blue bins and green bins. This makes extra work for the Superintendent who now has to check the green bins and find space to store them until pick up day. At some condos space is very limited. It may be necessary to build new infrastructure or purchase pre-built sheds for the extra storage.
As the pilot program proceeds it is hoped that the City will work with the condos to provide solutions to problems and ensure success.