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Options presented for next step towards waste reduction

At today's Community Issues Committee meeting, City Council heard about the success of the curbside recycling program and gathered information around options for a curbside organics program as they look at ways to further reduce the City's waste.

Joel Sanchez, General Manager of the City of Lethbridge Waste and Recycling provided background information, an update on the curbside recycling program, results of a recent community survey and options for implementation of a curbside organics program.

"As part of the approval of curbside recycling back in November 2016, City Council asked that we return with a plan for curbside organics once the blue cart was implemented in 2019," says Sanchez, "Now that we have the blue cart program up and running, we have come back with research and ideas for council's consideration around a green cart program."

In preparing the implementation plan, the City engaged with two consultants who provided their expertise in organics and waste management to evaluate different models and identify preferred options for Lethbridge.

Several possibilities were presented to council for the collection and processing of organics with various combinations of private business and City run operations. The report outlines the preferred option of an organics processing facility that is owned by the City and operated by a private contractor and that the collection be done using City resources.

The total cost of implementing curbside organics collection to all Lethbridge residents on a weekly summer schedule and bi-weekly winter schedule is estimated at $17 million with $5.1 million as the annual operating budget. The program is predicted to bring in $5.1 million in revenues per year. This equates to an increase of $8.25/month on a residential utility.

Similar to the roll-out of recycling, the proposed time line is to launch a phase 1 program to a small group of residents in the spring of 2020. This would be followed by city-wide implementation in the spring of 2021.

Current waste audits estimate about 57 per cent of the material collected in Lethbridge's black carts is organic material. Using a processing facility, this organic material could be converted into compost instead, saving valuable space at the landfill while at the same time, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"As part of the Residential Waste Diversion Strategy, Council has set targets for our city to divert waste away from our landfill," says Sanchez. "We've made some progress on that with recycling but we know organics would make a big difference in getting us to those targets."

In 2015, City Council adopted a waste diversion policy with a target of a 50 per cent reduction in residential waste by 2021 and 65 per cent reduction by 2030.

In a recent Lethbridge survey, 94 per cent of respondents felt it was important to reduce the waste they generate in their home. The majority said they would be interested in curbside organics program with 64 per cent in favour of curbside yard waste collection and 61 per cent in favour of a curbside food waste program.

Sanchez, shared with council the success of the curbside recycling program since it launched in mid-May. The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) has processed 1649 tonnes of recycled material. This equates to 15 per cent more material diverted from the landfill. The City continues to work towards diverting recyclables by educating residents of the ins and outs of the curbside program and promoting other recycling services to reach a 25 per cent diversion rate of recyclable material.

The addition of a curbside organics program would put the City closer to the approved target of a 50 per cent diversion rate by 2021.

Today's presentation to council was for information only and no decisions have been made on the next steps for the City's waste diversion.

For more information on the plans and programs within the City of Lethbridge waste and recycling department, visit www.lethbridge.ca/wrs.

See curbside recycling stats here.

Media Contact:
Joel Sanchez, General Manager
City of Lethbridge, Waste and Recycling Services
403-320-3037
joel.sanchez@lethbridge.ca

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