Toronto finally clamps down on trash

Kyle was reading the Star yesterday and came across this article:

Curbing the city’s trash

Apr 06, 2007 04:30 AM

city hall bureau
Some call it a tax grab, but Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, chair of Toronto’s public works and infrastructure committee, is touting a proposed trash fee, saying it will reward homeowners who recycle and use their green bins.

Details of the proposal are still being ironed out, but the idea is to give homeowners a choice between small, medium or large garbage bins. The larger the bin they use, the higher the annual fee.

Mayor David Miller wants the costs for waste disposal removed from property taxes under the plan, and it’s estimated homeowners would face an average monthly fee of about $15 for pick-up. De Baeremaeker sat down with the Star this week to talk about the philosophy behind the proposal.

Q What about the argument that larger families, because they produce more garbage, will be unfairly penalized and that downtown homeowners will benefit because larger families tend to live outside the core?

A There is some validity to that argument. A family of eight will produce more garbage than a neighbour who is a widow living alone. But I have two responses to that. To the family of eight, I’m going to give you so many options. If you have three kids in diapers, all the diapers go in the green bin. The food and scraps and serviettes all go into the green bin. We’re even going to recycle plastic next year.

So even a family of eight, I don’t think you’ll need a large can unless you don’t recycle. So this is a tax you can avoid, that’s the advantage of it.

My other response is if there’s an 85-year-old widow living in one house, and there’s a family of eight living next door, maybe they should pay more because they are using more of the service (than the widow).

We will be able to reward people with good behaviour when it comes to garbage pick-up.

Q And you’re saying it’s not a new tax? Some view this as a tax grab.

A It’s not a new tax. What we’re saying to everyone is we’re going to take it off your property tax and put it, like electricity, on a utility bill.

Q Are you envisioning a separate bill, like the ones we get for hydro, or water?

A That’s still being finalized, but you could have a separate bill, (or) you could have a water bill with garbage on the same one. It might save on paper, postage and processing.

There would be a certain fixed fee and then a fee on top of that based on usage. Right now, there is no incentive whatsoever for any of us to reduce our waste, other than being good citizens.

Q When do you see this coming into force if council were to adopt it?

A Maybe Earth Day in 2008 or some such symbolic date.

Q And the fee will be based on the size of the bins used, not whether the bin is half-empty or full?

A We can’t look into everyone’s garbage every week. We can’t get into that minutia of detail. We have a six-bag limit per pick-up. A lot of people, if they have an extra bag, walk across the street and ask a neighbour if it’s okay to put the bag there. Or you can wait for the next pick-up.

I think the city may have spring or fall clean-up weeks, where to be fair we’ll say on this given week – and we’ll advertise it, of course – you can put out extra bags. Maybe a May long weekend when people are cleaning out their garages, or fixing up their yards.

Q If your plan takes hold, might people be tempted to dump their garbage elsewhere, like on neighbours’ lawns, in parks, or near garbage cans on the street?

A People have been dumping their garbage in parks and ravines ever since I’ve been born, and will probably continue to do that. No matter what system you have, there are always a few idiots out there. I’ve had to build fences along part of one of my ravines because people at the back of an industrial plaza were dumping stuff.

Will people with their bags of garbage dump them? I don’t think so. There will be inspectors out there who will come and get ya and fine you if you illegally dump.

This is not a hardship…if you take your banana peels and put them in a green bin, and take your Shreddies box and put it in the recycling bin, there’s nothing left for you to put in your garbage can. So only the most extremely lazy or uncaring person would resort to doing midnight runs to dump their garbage on a neighbour’s lawn or in a park.

My sense right now is that the public will be overwhelmingly in support of this, because on the up-side, why should someone who religiously recycles, and diverts and composts, pay the same as the bum across the street who never uses his green bin?

I think it’s an awesome idea and I hope the bill is passed. The only questions I had were: What about people in apartments, and what about houses that are divided into apartments? Because we make very little trash, we wouldn’t have to worry about paying much if we owned property, but the fact is that we rent. We share a house with 4 other family units who all make quite a bit of garbage, and we have also noticed that the neighbour use our garbage bins. Because there is often empty space, they fill it up with their garbage. I suppose we would just put the kabosh on that once this law was in place. I do think the law will help to reduce a lot of garbage, but what can we do about the rest of the city dwellers who don’t own property? I mean would most people care if their landlord had to pay more because of them, and how would you track whose garbage was who’s? Also, I think we should aim to also cut down recycling. A ban on one time use containers would be awesome, but I know it will be a while. I guess I should just take one thing at a time, and this thing-this bill, is amazing. If it passes, it will be one small environmental victory! Yaaay!

When I was web surfing last night, I discovered that Dale Duncan has mentioned us in another article and it’s a really good one. Thanks Dale! She talks about how Tim Horton’s received an environmental award for helping with city clean-up, when they should have received a fine for encouraging disposable cups with their Roll up the Rim to Win contest, and for over packaging everything they serve. I couldn’t agree more. I like donuts as much as anyone but I have a hate-on for Tim Horton’s. Anyhow I’ve copied the article below because I’m not sure how long the link will last for. If you can, go to the article on Spacing because they have lots of live links to other important information, that I couldn’t figure out how to keep.

City Hall: Trash Talk

Cross-posted from Eye Daily.
It’s a given that the city needs to change the rules related to garbage collection. Right now, there’s a six-bag limit per household per pick up day (six bags!), and that doesn’t include recycling. With the new green bin and our now ubiquitous blue box, what kind of household needs to fill six-bags every two weeks?

If this couple can make almost zero garbage in one month, surely the rest of us can cut back on the amount of trash we take to the curb every week. To help ensure this happens, the city is toying with the idea of charging homeowners an annual fee for the garbage bins they use. The smaller the bin you buy, the less you’ll have to pay. The cost of the bins would replace the current fee we pay for waste disposal out of our property taxes. You’ve probably already read the coverage of the proposed scheme in one of the dailies. Reading Toronto has some good things to say about it here.

The whole thing sounds like a great idea, until someone brings up the fact that under this plan lower income residents end up paying more for garbage disposal than they did in the past. “Charge everyone $180 to pick up a standard bin and the poor person pays more of his or her wages than the well-off person,” writes Royson James in Today’s Toronto Star.

Perhaps the bigger problem is that if we’re going to ask people to produce less waste, we need to make it easier for them to do so. It’s sort of like Mayor Miller’s argument against putting road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway — he says he won’t consider charging drivers for using these freeways until viable public transit options are put in place. If we’re going to charge people for the amount of waste they create, how about also telling businesses that they have to cut back on packaging? How about charging fast food restaurants for all the garbage they export to the city’s street-side garbage bins and public parks? All this talk of reducing Toronto’s trash seems disproportionately focused on residents. The role that restaurants and other businesses play in the amount of garbage we produce is suspiciously absent from the debate.

And then there are the times when our biggest trash makers are actually commended. According to another article in the Toronto Star published yesterday, a city audit of garbage cans in parks found an abundance of waste from fast food outlets. Of the 572 cans examined, 303 of them contained trash from Tim Hortons. The Canadian coffee shop topped the chart in fast food waste.

I almost spit out my coffee when I read what Paul Ronan, director of parks for the city, was quoted as saying next: “Actually, Tim Hortons has done a great job working with us,” he said. “They do a lot with our annual clean-up days.”

Tim Hortons has done a great job? This is same company that encourages people to buy more disposable cups with its roll up the rim to win contests and has zero recycling in any of the Toronto stores I’ve been to (and zero information on whether or not you can recycle their cups even though, supposedly, they now have specially designed blue bins in locations across Ontario.) Instead of being commended, they should be slapped with a fine for failing to provide recycling in their stores. Better yet, why not have fast food chains pay for street-side garbage bins sans advertising, the kind that the city says it can’t afford?

Got something to say about how Toronto deals with its trash? The city is looking for public feedback on how it handles its garbage. For more information, check out the city’s website (scroll down to the third item under “what’s new.”) The deadline for filling out an official comment form is April 20.



Filed under garbage laws

6 responses to “Toronto finally clamps down on trash

  1. Anna

    I hate the freaking roll up the rim to win contest! Even if you order coffee to stay in and get it in a mug, they give you an empty paper cup anyway just for the stupid contest. Grrr!

  2. I agree Anna! It drives me nuts. It’s so hard to get anything garbage free at Tim Hortons. They insist on wrapping everything-even when it’s to stay! I still think they should reward people who bring their own travel mugs.

  3. karen

    The trash system they’re discussing is very similar to the one we have in Seattle… we pay for our garbage pickup on a monthly basis (although I think this is generally standard in the US) and the rate varies by the size of the bin you select. It seems to work well in our city. We also have yard waste/compostables bins and everyone gets a very large recycling bin picked up for free, so it really encourages recycling. In fact, you can now be fined if you throw out recyclables excessively!

  4. Jen

    As usual, am a little late on this one. Just wanted to respond to the comments about renting – if, as suggested, the charge went on a separate utilities bill, then renters would likely have to pay for what they use, just like water, gas and electricity. Might give them an incentive to cut down. Hopefully. 🙂

  5. We don’t pay for our water, gas and utilities. The landlord does.

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