Waste reduction and re-purposing
The City has adopted a zero waste goal as part of its Solid Waste Master Plan (SWMP). To meet that objective it needs to aggressively focus on waste reduction, diverting organic waste from landfill, enhanced waste diversion from disposal and the development of a sustainable waste management future. A combination of disincentives for creating waste, incentives for recycling, a concentration on the green bin program and restructuring parts of the waste management system must become core elements of the SWMP.
Solid waste from households is the third largest contributor to our city’s greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint. Waste collection, disposal, recycling, and green bin programs, produce approximately 9% of the City of Ottawa’s corporate and community GHG emissions. Composting or the anaerobic digestion of organic wastes can significantly reduce the City’s waste management GHG footprint by avoiding landfilling and reducing the methane and Co2 emissions associated with disposal.
The existing municipal landfill facility at Trail Road is scheduled to close in 2036 / 2038. Trail Road is a critical and invaluable asset that should be managed with a view to long-term sustainability rather than replacement. Siting, approving, constructing and commissioning either a new landfill site or an energy from waste incinerator would not be simple. Based on experience elsewhere, it could take at least a decade, be highly controversial, cause environmental harm to both land and air and cost at a minimum close to a third of a billion dollars in capital costs and tens of millions in lifetime operating costs. By focusing on reduction, recycling and composting a path to a new landfill or an incinerator must be, and can be, avoided.
A circular economy where materials are recovered for remanufacture and reuse and put back into use rather than disposed of has a much smaller environmental footprint than the prevailing “make, use and dispose” economy. A circular economy reduces the need for and reliance on mining minerals and fossil fuels. It also promotes recycling and the creation of secondary materials and markets. The City can support a circular economy for all City operations and buildings by reducing waste generation and collection in house, by enhancing recycling and by developing a pro-active green procurement strategy by for example banning all single use plastics, requiring recyclable packaging in all product purchasing and pursuing green construction waste reduction strategies.
Many of the regulatory tools to reduce and divert waste from disposal, such as bans on the production and sale of single use plastics, producer responsibility programs and recycled content requirements for packaging, rest largely with the provincial and federal governments. Municipalities however have a major role to play within their own legislative mandates and responsibilities and must first get their houses in order to help meet climate change and environmental sustainability objectives.
What Can the City Do?
- Focus on reduction and waste diversion by:
- Reducing the amount of garbage that can be put out for collection
- Establishing a user pay system for garbage collection
- Specifically targeting products such as mattresses, electronics and textiles for special collection and recycling
- Significantly increasing spending on promotion and education to levels spent by comparable municipalities.
- Aggressively target organics collection curbside and at multi-residential properties and ensure that the 2022 council decision to provide green bin collection to multi-residential buildings is adequately budgeted and staffed
- Manage and use the Trail Road landfill as a sustainable “evergreen” facility and as a long term asset for the 30 year planning horizon of the SWMP by reducing to the maximum extent possible the amount of waste requiring disposal