Londoners want less garbage, and they're willing to pay for it

The City of London is working on an action plan to divert the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill, and the majority of residents are on board and willing to pay for it.

A recent survey says 93 per cent of residents support increasing waste diversion from landfill sites

A green bin program has been operating in Toronto for the past 15 years, lending to an increase in their waste diversion efforts. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

London is working to implement an action plan with the goal of diverting 60 per cent of the waste that ends up in the landfill by 2022. According to a recent survey, the majority of residents are on board.

An online survey of 301 London residents by Ipsos says 93 per cent or respondents agree waste diversion is important, and 76 per cent say they are willing to pay a little more to make it happen.

But just how much more will they have to pay?

According to the 60% Waste Diversion Action Plan that's heading to the Civic Works Committee on Tuesday, hitting the waste diversion target could cost taxpayers an extra $36 per year.

"Sixty per cent diversion is a target that has been proposed by the provincial government as being a good objective for municipalities to seek," said Jay Stanford, director of environment, fleet and solid waste for the City of London.

"A number of municipalities in Ontario have already reached that level of waste diversion, and in the city of London, our landfill capacity will be complete by 2025."

The City's current residential waste diversion is at 45 per cent.

London is committed to increasing waste diversion as part of a landfill expansion project. The commitment was made to ensure funding from the province is available for expansion.

What the plan looks like

The proposed actions include implementing a green bin program for curbside organic pickup, expanding the blue box program to include additional recyclable materials, a mixed waste pilot project for multi-residential locations, along with initiatives and policies surrounding waste reduction and reuse.

The City is recommending green bins for residential pick-up over a mixed waste processing program.

"Our research indicates that [mixed waste processing] is just not there yet from a technical perspective at this point in time," said Stanford.

"It's something that we believe will be there in the way of stronger systems in about five to 10 years from now, so we're recommending both systems -- we're recommending a curbside system for the majority of London and a pilot project for the multi-residential sector that will look at a mixed waste system."

Stanford says once the technical challenges of the mixed-waste system are understood, they could transition from the curbside program in the future.

According to the report, green bins will have the largest impact on waste diversion with an estimated increase of 10 per cent. Green bins also come with the biggest price tag with an initial cost of $12-million and annual operating costs between $3.9-million and $5.5-million.

The green bin program isn't expected to start until the summer of 2021.

Organics management initiatives that can be implemented next year will target food waste reduction strategies, along with composting at home and in the community.

Changes to recycling would include the handling of carpet, mattresses and textiles. There's a proposal for curbside pickup of electronics, scrap metal, small metal appliances, wooden furniture and bulky plastics.

All in, the likely annual operating cost for all the proposals is estimated to be $6.5-million, adding $36 to the average tax bill. The current annual cost of garbage, recycling and composting in London is about $30-million a year.

The benefits of increasing waste diversion

Job creation will be a large component of the City's action plan, making way for up to 170 new positions inside and outside of London.

Waste diversion would have a positive impact on the environment with reduced greenhouse gas emissions estimated to be up to 27,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of removing 6,800 cars from the road.

Impact to the landfill would be reduced, including odour and traffic.

The action plan timeline

The 60% Waste Diversion Action Plan is expected to be released to the public and stakeholders on July 25. 

An information booth will also be set up at the Gathering on the Green II festival in Wortley Village on Aug. 19.

Feedback will be accepted until Sept. 10.

City staff will consider the feedback and submit a report to the committee and hold a public participation meeting on Sept. 27.

The Civic Works Committee will be presented with implementation details and the final cost estimates in early 2019 before the plan is voted on by council.

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