Ottawa lagging on waste diversion, group says

Waste Watch Ottawa says the city is lagging behind other municipalities when it comes to diverting residential waste from landfill, and needs to pick up its game.

Waste Watch Ottawa to present report Friday morning

A new report from Waste Watch Ottawa suggests the city is lagging behind others when it comes to diverting residential waste from landfill.

Jonathan Guenette has been composting and separating his recyclables for as long as he's lived on his own, and his neighbours do the same.

"I live in Hintonburg and everywhere around me it seems like [waste] is all split up and everybody's doing their part," Guenette said.

Other municipalities appear to care more about their programs and have invested time, effort and dollars to improve them over time.- Duncan Bury, Waste Watch Ottawa

But according to a new report by the group Waste Watch Ottawa (WWO), Ottawa is actually lagging behind other Ontario municipalities when it comes to diverting residential waste from landfills.

"Other municipalities appear to care more about their programs and have invested time, effort and dollars to improve them over time, to engage residents to increase participation and to achieve considerably better rates of waste diversion than Ottawa," observed Duncan Bury, a member of WWO.

'Ottawa is at the bottom'

WWO analyzed waste diversion data from the province, as well as a 2014-2015 report from the City of Ottawa that Bury said the group obtained through a municipal freedom of information request.
Duncan Bury of Waste Watch Ottawa will present the group's report Friday. (Mario Carlucci/CBC)

"We looked at how the city of Ottawa compares to all the other major, large municipalities in the province in terms of the rate and percentage of waste they divert into recycling and green bin, and Ottawa is at the bottom of that list by any number of measures," said Bury, who will present WWO's findings at a news conference at Ottawa City Hall Friday morning.

The city's waste diversion efforts were dealt a critical blow when it struck a doomed waste-to-energy deal with Plasco Energy Group, Bury said.

As a result of Ottawa's lagging rates of residential waste diversion, the city's Trail Road landfill will reach capacity no later than 2045, Bury said. If Ottawa could somehow match the residential diversion rate of York Region, for example, Trail Road could last beyond 2065. 

Half of homes don't compost

According to WWO, Ottawa diverted 42.5 per cent of its residential waste in 2015. The provincial average is 47.7 per cent, with Ontario's best performers diverting over 60 per cent.

A waste composition study of 100 homes conducted by the city suggests 50 per cent of Ottawa residents are not using their green bins, and 25 per cent do not use the recycling program at all, Bury said.

Compounding the problem, the city spends less per household on recycling and green bin promotion and education than do all other large municipalities in Ontario, Bury said.

WWO is calling on the city to reverse a 2016 decision to cease exploring waste diversion alternatives, and to re-engage with the public on how to implement waste reduction strategies.

Getting highrises on board

Ottawa should also look to more successful municipalities for solutions, said Bury, especially when it comes to  getting highrise buildings on board.

"I think municipalities which do this better have dedicated staff who work very much hands-on with building managers, superintendents, condo boards, rental tenant associations, and that's really what you need to do," Bury said.

Bury concedes residential diversion rates are at least higher than those of the industrial, commercial and institutional sector, which presents a far greater waste problem, but is policed by the province.

In a statement, Marilyn Journeau, director of the city's solid waste service, said: "The City of Ottawa looks forward to reviewing the report and its recommendations once it is made available."

WWO's full report is available here.