Garbage collection is a touchy subject, but it is irresponsible for Council not to study its options before dismissing them.
By Ryan McGreal
Published April 28, 2011
Last week, the Public Works Committee backpedaled furiously from a proposal to move to bi-weekly garbage collection.
According to a Spectator report published last Tuesday, Councillor Sam Merulla summarized the feeling around the table: "I don't want the message out there that we are even considering bi-weekly pickup."
This is unfortunate. As I argued in February, switching to bi-weekly garbage collection while keeping recycling and green waste collection weekly would allow Hamilton to save taxpayer money, increase waste diversion out of the garbage can and extend the life of Glanbrook Landfill.
The good news is that Councillors Brian McHattie and Russ Powers have not given up on the proposal. Echoing calls from the Waste Reduction Task Force and Environment Hamilton, McHattie and Powers are asking Council not to reject the idea without at least investigating it.
On Monday, Councillor Judi Partridge tested the waters by tweeting the following question: "Taxpayers do you support bi-wkly 2 bag garbage pic-up with weekly pic-up grn bin/yard & recycling -save huge taxes [sic]".
Our Councillors couldn't even bring themselves to ask staff to study the option of bi-weekly garbage collection. As McHattie noted, "We weren’t making a decision tonight. We were asking how much would it cost to go to biweekly. By turning this down tonight, we’ll never have that information."
So much for citizen engagement. Council's refusal even to study the merits of bi-weekly garbage collection does not show the kind of leadership we should expect from our elected representatives. (Of course, refusing to consider options before making a decision is a city tradition.)
In Hamilton, most of the improvements in waste diversion over the past decade have come from expensive investments in alternate streams that extract value out of garbage instead of just burying it in the ground.
These investments are worthwhile, but we now have an opportunity to further improve our waste diversion with a move that would actually save $1.5 - 2.8 million a year.
It is irresponsible not to study the merits of this opportunity.
Garbage is a touchy subject, and Councillors wish to avoid the flood of irate calls and letters they fear will accompany any move perceived as a service cut. However, the common argument against bi-weekly garbage collection is easily addressed.
The most frequent complaint is that garbage starts to smell after two weeks, especially during the summer. However, the garbage that smells is the very stuff that can - and should - be going into green bins instead of the trash.
Only 55% of the compostable waste that Hamiltonians produce makes it into the green bin. The rest still goes into the garbage.
The easiest and most effective way to divert a bigger share of that green waste is to offer Hamiltonians weekly pickup for green waste and bi-weekly pickup for garbage.
Pickup will still be weekly - the only difference is that residents will have to sort their trash.
In any case, we don't need to guess at how it will work. We need only ask our neighbours in Halton Region, who switched to bi-weekly garbage pickup last year.
It may surprise the skeptical to learn that the sky has not fallen over Oakville and Burlington.
A version of this article was first published on OpenFile Hamilton.
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