Taxpayers to subsidize apartment, condo recycling

City councillors must decide whether multi-unit dwellers should pay $2.50 per month for curbside recycling later this year. The recycling contract with a disabled non-profit group would still leave a funding shortfall of more than $600K by 2015 and into the future.

Officials hope to expand city-wide recycling this year

If a proposed contract with Cosmopolitan Industries gets city approval, people who live in apartments and condos will have curbside recycling pickup beginning later this year.
All Saskatoon taxpayers may have to pay more, to bring city recycling programs to apartments and condos.

Two years ago, council agreed to give Cosmopolitan Industries the contract to handle recycling at multi-unit dwellings, without asking for bids from other companies. For years, disabled people working for Cosmo have picked up recycling from communal bins, and processed it at the non-profit's facility on 34th Street West.

A report submitted this week by city officials recommends charging apartments and condos $2.50 per unit per month to implement city-wide recycling.

Single-family homeowners currently pay $4.66/month for curbside recycling.

Funding gap

Auditors at Deloitte LLP conducted an independent review of Cosmo's business plan, saying it was sound. They noted, however, "only in what we would consider a best-case scenario did the projected rates of return achieve industry rates of return."

City officials noted the price of recycling with Cosmo is "still higher than many [multi-unit dwellings] are paying current service providers.".

Bringing city-wide curbside recycling to apartments and condos this year will leave the city with a funding shortfall of $215,000. City officials call that a "one-time" expense, and said it should be paid from capital reserves.

In the future though, the report notes that funding gap will widen, from anywhere between $635,000 and $870,000 per year.

City officials believe a proposed new province-wide recycling grant program for municipalities would cover most of that cost. But that program has not been approved, nor will it be in operation until next year at the earliest.

Price a concern

Jeff Jorgenson is the general manager of the city's transportation and utilities division. He said keeping the cost of the program low was important to everyone.

"There wasn't strong opposition to recycling," Jorgenson said. "The concern that they had was price."

Last fall, the City received feedback on the proposed program from 192 stakeholders, including landlords, tenants and condo-owners.

Jeff Jorgenson says the city knows people want an affordable recycling program. (CBC News)

Jorgenson said Thursday the city realizes there is no band-aid solution to multi-unit recycling and that any program will need to be flexible and include options for customization based on the residence.

In 2012, city council members said they voted to work with Cosmopolitan Industries because the organization provides meaningful employment for disabled people.

If the executive committee accepts the report without changes, it will be presented to City Council at its meeting on March 3, 2014 for final approval.