Waste awaits on Strathcona Drive, Fonthill. VOICE PHOTO

Niagara Region moving to bi-weekly garbage pickup

Starting Oct. 19, there are sweeping changes coming to waste collection practices in Niagara.

Recycling and organics will continue to be collected weekly but garbage will be picked up every other week. This is being done to help reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, promote waste reduction, reduce indirect costs to taxpayers and decrease the number of disposal trucks on the road.

“The real driver, based on audits we have done over a number of years, is we know that the typical garbage bag in Niagara comprises 50 percent organic material, primarily organic food waste,” said Catherine Habermebl, Regional Niagara’s director of waste management services.

“Without changes, we didn’t see the diversion dial of diverting 65 percent of all residential garbage from landfill or disposal moving.”

Studies have determined that less than 40 percent of households in Niagara are using green bins for organic waste. There was a slight increase in usage in 2011 when the Region went to a one bag or can a week limit from two but that increase wasn’t sustained even with the one-can limit.

“Obviously, the objective is to reduce the amount of waste or valuable resources going into our local landfills,” Habermebl said.

People think when food waste goes into landfills that it goes into the ground and decomposes, but that isn’t the case.

“Landfills don’t provide the optimal environment for organic materials to decompose and when it does start to break down, it causes methane gas and leachate which all have to be managed and that comes with a cost,” she said.

The new plan helps reduce that cost and Habermebl said there will be an annual “cost avoidance” of $1 million dollars during the next seven years.

“I won’t say savings because the costs for collection have gone up across the province anywhere from 20 to 114 percent and there are many factors for those increases,” Habermebl said.

There will be savings on the disposal sides of the things, but there will be more costs associated with handling the additional organic wastes.

“If our objectives are reached, those materials that are currently going into the landfill will now go to a compost handling facility and there’s a cost per ton to manage that.”

The Region has long-term contracts with Walker Industries to process its food waste and provide space in its Thorold landfill site. One-third of garbage collected by the Region goes to that site.

Reducing waste going to landfills is important because dumps have a finite lifespan. The West Lincoln landfill, which services West Lincoln, Pelham, Lincoln and Grimsby, has about 40 years space remaining based on the current incoming tonnage.

The Humberstone landfill, found on the border of Welland and Port Colborne, was recently granted an expansion which allows the site to grow vertically. It will add 25 years of lifespan to that site based on the current incoming tonnage.

Going through the process which resulted in that expansion cost $11.5 million.

“That is another benefit of trying to remove materials going to landfills because it extends the life of those facilities and gives us more capacity,” Habermebl said. “Going out for any type of new disposal, whether it’s an energy facility or a landfill takes time — anywhere from ten to 15 years — and it is quite an expensive endeavour.”

That is another benefit of trying to remove materials going to landfills because it extends the life of those facilities and gives us more capacity

As part of the changes to waste collection, there will be a two bag/can limit on residential garbage. For apartments with seven or more units, bi-weekly collection will see a two-container limit per unit, to a maximum of 24 containers per building, and garbage tags cannot be used for extra bags.

Residents who dispose of diaper waste or waste generated due to a medical condition can register for weekly pickup if they cannot manage their waste into the two bag/can garbage collection limit every-other-week and/or are unable to hold onto this waste for a two-week period.

There will be a four-item limit on large household item such as furniture and the curbside pickup of appliances and scrap metal will be discontinued. Those items can still be disposed of free of charge at drop-off depots or through scrap metal haulers or dealers. Appliances with CFCs, such as freezers and refrigerators, are subject to a $20 fee per unit at the drop-off depots, unless you have pre-purchased the $20 CFC sticker. The two closest drop-off depots for Pelham residents are 700 Humberstone Rd. in Welland, and 2800 Thorold Townline Rd. in Thorold.

If Niagara residents don’t yet have a green bin, they are urged to get one. Green bin disposal helps avoid potential issues with odours and pests that may occur if this material sits in the garbage for two weeks.

New homeowners and new renters are entitled to obtain one free blue box, grey box, kitchen catcher and green bin if they do not have them already. To pick up the free containers, visit the locations listed on the Region’s website within 12 months of the possession date or occupancy. Local pickup sites include the municipal offices in Lincoln, Pelham and Wainfleet.

Pelham residents need to bring their damaged bins for verification to the Town Hall at 20 Pelham Town Square. You will receive a new bin and a recycling sticker for your damaged bins to be picked up. Because Town Hall remains closed to the walk-in public, an appointment will need to be made. To coordinate replacing or picking up of bins, please contact Rose Azotini at [email protected]

For those new to Pelham, they will need to show a copy of their transfer deed as evidence of the possession date of your home or a rental or lease agreement as evidence of occupancy date.

For those wanting extra bins, the cost is $6 for blue and grey boxes, $17 for a green bin, $4 for a kitchen catcher and $21 for a composter.

As part of the changes, Niagara’s garbage and recycling will also be collected by someone else. Last November, the Region decided to replace Emterra Environment, a Burlington-based company that had collected trash and recycling in Niagara for the past seven years.

Green For Life will collect in Grimsby, Lincoln, Pelham, Thorold, Wainfleet and West Lincoln, and Miller Waste Systems will be responsible for Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Port Colborne, St. Catharines and Welland. The seven-year contract with the two companies will cost the Region about $30 million dollars a year. There is a provision in the contract which provides for a one-year extension.

Green for Life will be located in the St. Catharines space where Emterra was based. The company has headquarters in Vaughan and operates in 23 American states and every Canadian province. It has some 10,000 employees.

Miller Waste Systems has been in the waste management business for five decades, operating in some 30 locations across Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Manitoba. It has 900-plus collection vehicles and 1,700 employees. Its Niagara operations are found on Townline Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and through its sister company, Escarpment Renewables, it owns an organics processing plant in Grimsby. That plant is being retrofitted to a state-of-the-art facility producing electricity and fertilizer for use on local agricultural lands.

Having more than one business handling Niagara’s curb-side pickup is nothing new for the peninsula.

“Historically, up until this current [Emterra] contract, we have had two or three companies servicing the Region,” Habermebl said. “We felt that having two contractors provides us with a contingency if something goes wrong in one area.”

To help Niagara’s residents manage all the changes, the Region has created the Niagara Region Waste app for Apple or Android smartphones. The app includes the garbage/recycling collection schedule for specific house addresses, the ability to sign up for a collection day reminder, and updates regarding collection changes or delays.

The app also features a “Where Does it Go?” search tool, which can tell you if your recyclables and waste go in the green bin, blue or grey box, garbage or to a household hazardous waste depot.

Residents without Apple or Android smartphones can visit waste management on-line (https://www.niagararegion.ca/waste/collection/schedule/default.aspx ) and search their home address in the “Find Your Collection Day” tool. From there, they can sign up for a waste collection reminder by email or phone call, download their collection schedule into their iCal, Google calendar or Microsoft Outlook calendar, or print their collection schedule.

“It’s now even easier to learn about solid waste management in our community with our improved mobile app, Niagara Region Waste, and on-line tools,” said Jennifer Mazurek, a waste management program manager for policy, planning and engagement.

“The app provides residents with all the information they need to know about their curbside waste collection at the touch of a button.”