'It feels like the world is our landfill': consultant says Sask. lags on waste reduction

Saskatchewan's record on waste reduction is lagging far behind, according to an environmental engineer and consultant.

Saskatoon city council moving gradually to composting, pay-as-you-throw garbage collection

City councillors voted to develop the utility but have not approved some costs. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

Saskatchewan's record on waste reduction is lagging far behind, according to an environmental engineer and consultant. 

"In general, we are very behind environmentally in this province. But change is difficult," Sheri Praski said Tuesday on CBC Saskatchewan's Saskatoon Morning.

Praski, who used to oversee Saskatoon's waste program, applauded the city's gradual moves toward a composting program and pay-as-you-throw garbage collection, but said there's still a very long way to go.

She said Saskatoon was one of the last communities of its size to introduce blue bin recycling. Saskatoon and Regina recycle and divert less than a quarter of all waste while many other Canadian cities have been above the 50 per cent mark for years.

She said Saskatchewan's low population and huge land mass is part of the problem. Residents don't see the environmental consequences as they do in more densely populated centres.

"It feels like the world is our landfill," Praski said.

Saskatoon moves toward pay-as-you-throw garbage collection

Saskatoon residents will likely be moving to a pay-as-you-throw garbage system but the full cost of implementing it and precise user fees will not be known until at least September.

Under the proposed new system, citizens would pay a utility fee instead of paying for garbage through property taxes.

Councillors voted Monday to develop the utility for curbside collection, through which households will pay a variable utility fee depending on the size of their garbage cart.

A decision on whether — and how — to implement it will not be made until after September, when a more detailed report by the city administration addresses questions about costs and implementation.

Issues such as accessibility for people with mobility issues and concerns about low-income residents' ability to pay will also be addressed at a later date.

'Status quo is not an option'

But supporters of the change voted to start developing the utility, saying the current system is not sustainable.

"I genuinely believe that we have to do something and that status quo is not an option," said Coun. Zach Jeffries.  

"And if we don't do anything then we are just simply kicking the can down the road and expecting future generations and people years down the road to deal with the situation."

Council also voted to develop an organics program that will operate year-round using a single green cart for food and yard waste.

Some decisions deferred

The current cart size and frequency of curbside recycling will remain the same, but councillors deferred a decision on how much to spend buying green carts.The cost of organics collection and processing is also yet to be determined.

The city administration had recommended that up to $8.5 million be approved to buy the carts.

- with files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning