Changes are being proposed as part of an ambitious District waste diversion plan aimed at increasing recycling rates in Muskoka from 35 to 60 per cent.
The five-year plan would leave residents no choice but to start sorting their waste, rather than sending it all to the landfill. It’s also designed to expand the capacity of the Rosewarne Landfill site in Bracebidge (Muskoka’s only operating landfill) set to run out of room by 2036, at current diversion rates.
“The waste strategy really has a huge environmental positive impact for Muskoka, which, unfortunately, [is]probably out of sight and out of mind,” District commissioner of engineering and public works Fred Jahn told a joint finance committee and engineering and public works committee meeting held in November.
“We’ve talked at great lengths that landfills generate about 20 per cent of the methane gas, one of the bad greenhouse gas contributors in Canada, and the need for diverting organics from landfill is really paramount to avoid those environmental impacts.”
Jahn also told the joint committee that he predicts the cost of waste disposal will rise. “I would submit to you that we are in the cheap garbage days, currently. In 20 years and beyond I think the District and the province will see much, much higher costs for waste disposal. Making the landfill last as long as possible makes good fiscal sense,” he said. “The waste strategy really focuses on organics collection and diversion from the landfill. The good news about the strategy is we know the solution to it. It’s a simple matter of reducing garbage bag limits and diverting organics from the landfill.”
Jahn added that part of the longer-term strategy is for households to eventually get down to one garbage bag per week as well as using clear bags, another tool he said that’s been proven effective in diverting waste.
Landfill tipping fees for non-divertible materials will increase next year by five per cent from $201 per tonne to $211.
In the spring of next year, curbside bag limits as well as transfer station bag limits will go from three bags to two bags per week, following the expansion of organic or green bin services. In the spring of 2023 bag limits are being proposed to further decrease to one bag per week.
All transfer stations and Muskoka’s landfill will be equipped to receive organics, and curbside organic services will be expanded to an estimated 4,400 year-round residences in Huntsville to start, with other areas to follow.
“We know we have 22,000 units right now without curbside organics and to expand all at once would be exceptionally impactful on the budget. And so, we are proposing that we would start with a November (2022) expansion to those Huntsville year-round units,” said director of waste management and environmental services Stephanie Mack, adding that the further expansion of the program would happen in a phased approach.
The plan also proposes that District council pass a mandatory waste diversion bylaw in 2026 after residents are given the curbside tools to separate their waste appropriately.
Other proposed changes include offering organic waste disposal programs at waste depots in Georgian Bay, and the staff to supervise them.
Mack said the District often gets requests, particularly in the spring, for reduced tipping fees to support community clean-ups. “And we are proposing just over $15,000 to support these local initiatives. We would be providing identifiable garbage bags or bag tags each spring working with our area municipalities on litter, to tying it in with Earth Day or the Provincial Day of Action on Litter.”
The large item disposal community event in the Township of Muskoka Lakes will be provided on a fee-for-service basis moving forward, she added.
Other initiatives include a waste site pass system to be implemented by 2023, “allowing us to manage our program more effectively,” said Jahn.
At the moment, District waste facilities track vehicle license plates and do not have the ability to control no-charge garbage limits by property.
Jahn said the five-year strategy is expected to increase solid waste costs anywhere from seven to 10 per cent over the coming years, unless there’s an appetite to roll the program out over a longer period.
“We feel very strongly that the District can make significant progress by supporting this budget over a five-year plan to get to 60 to 70 per cent [recycling]range,” he said.
District council is scheduled to meet on December 20 at 3 p.m.
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