by David Brown, candidate for City Council
[dropcap]G[/dropcap]Garbage collection, it’s smelly and dirty, but it is one of the most important functions of municipal government. For most of us, we don’t think about garbage until we have to drag it to the ends of our driveways twice a month, but in the upcoming election and the next term of Council, it’s something our local representatives need to be thinking a lot about.
Eight years ago, Ottawa City Council started to experiment and change the way our City handles the hundreds of thousands of tons of waste residents create each year. The new green bin program was rolled out, garbage collection was cut in half, Council signed what turned out to be a deeply flawed and expensive contract with Orgaworld and began working with Plasco to develop a state of the art disposal facility.
Fast forward to 2018, Ottawa doesn’t seem to be light years ahead of where we were eight years ago. To many, we are actually further behind. Plasco wasn’t able to secure funding to meet its financial obligations and subsequently filed for creditor protection. The City spent months fighting Orgaworld for the sweetheart deal that City Councillors signed off on leaving the taxpayer on the hook for millions, and for years City staff have barely been able to convince half of Ottawa’s residents to use the Green Bin Program.
In 2010 the average homeowner paid $89 dollars on their tax bill for weekly garbage collection. We now pay $86 dollars for half of the service.
But the real question of this article is “Where does all of this garbage end up?” Most of it is dumped in Rideau-Goulbourn Ward at the Trail Road Dump off of Moodie Drive. In 2016, staff estimated that over 450,000 tons of garbage was dumped at Trail Road. That’s 450,000 tons of garbage every year! In the past four years, Council hasn’t taken any concrete action to look at a more environmentally sustainable solution. What will happen when the Trail Road Dump reaches capacity? In all likelihood, the City will want to open a new dump, but it won’t be downtown or in the suburbs. As sure as winter will come, rural Ottawa will get stuck again taking Ottawa’s garbage. Ottawa will spend millions of dollars this year alone decommissioning parts of Trail Road that have reached capacity, but the real cost is the lost land, pollution and the threat of ground water and soil contamination. Incineration may not be as sexy as an LRT train, but every resident needs to have dependable garbage collection and disposal. Long gone are the tall stacks billowing black smoke as the incineration plants below burn garbage. New techniques and technology allow municipalities to build and operate modern state of the art facilities that are able to sort, recycle materials and incinerate waste and generate electricity all at the same time. We don’t have to look at Europe to find inspiration, there are several municipalities in Ontario that already use incinerators.
Politicians can’t afford to dither any longer. Residents in Rideau-Goulbourn and across Ottawa should demand that the next term of Council be focused on identifying the correct waste disposal solution for our City and finally change the way Ottawa deals with its garbage. If that doesn’t happen, Rideau-Goulbourn will spend the next several decades being Ottawa’s dumpster.