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Organics in Lethbridge - The Big Picture

​Submitted as a Letter to the Editor, Lethbridge Herald
May 20, 2021

As we continue to take meaningful steps to help the community reduce waste and divert appropriate materials from the landfill, we recognize there may be some confusion about the differences between residential waste services and business waste management, particularly as it pertains to organics.

The Waste and Recycling Centre is the only facility in Lethbridge that accepts all forms of waste: garbage, recycling and organics. As such, there are two primary customer types at the Waste and Recycling Centre: residents of Lethbridge and businesses. This includes the construction and demolition (C&D) sector and the industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sector.

The types and volumes of garbage, recycling and organics generated by these two customer groups are very different. This is why they are funded differently and have dedicated infrastructure at the Waste and Recycling Centre.

Business Sector Organics

City Council approved Capital Improvement Program (CIP) funding for the construction of a compost facility to support organics brought in by the business sectors at the Waste & Recycling Centre on June 10, 2019 as part of Section E-7 in the 2018-2028 CIP.

Currently there is only a compost pad available to manage organic material. All material brought in by ICI and C&D sectors pay a tipping fee to dispose of their organic material, but this is to offset the cost and management of the pad. The introduction of mandatory organics collection for the ICI and C&D sectors in 2022 means a facility is required to manage an anticipated 10,000 tonnes of organic material a year specific to their needs.

The cost of construction is $5.9 million and the building will be operational by the fall of 2021. The money is borrowed from the Capital Improvement Program first to build the infrastructure but the operations and borrowing cost is fully funded by tipping fees from the ICI and C&D sectors. However, the ICI & C&D sectors also pay additional fees to have their waste hauled by a private hauler to the Waste and Recycling facility.

A Letter to the Editor recently stated that "70% of waste going into the landfill comes from the ICI sector." However, this isn't the complete picture.

The introduction of increased fees and surcharges at the landfill during the last five years has resulted in a decrease in the garbage generated by both the ICI and C&D sectors. The ICI sector has reduced their garbage by 8% compared to 2015 numbers and the C&D sector has reduced their garbage by 26%.

Overall, the ICI and C&D sectors are only 3% away from the 2021 targets and they are moving towards the 2030 targets established in the Waste Diversion Policy.

It is important to make clear that the diversion achieved by the ICI and C&D sectors is possible due to the recycling investments and new programs approved by City Council - and fully funded by the ICI and C&D Sector - not Lethbridge residents.

Residential Organics Collection

City Council is currently considering a proposal for the 2022-2031 CIP that would support the introduction of residential curbside organics collection (also labelled as E-7, which can cause some confusion!). This project is separate from the construction of the compost facility for the ICI and C&D sectors, although the overall building structure will be expanded to support the specific needs of the residential organics collection program.

It has been stated that the residential curbside organics collection program would cost $17.6 million but the actual anticipated cost is $10.6 million. This anticipated cost covers construction of the residential organics collection area, compost equipment to support this section of the facility – similar to ICI & C&D sectors – but the collection of the organic material from residents, staffing and four new trucks are added costs in addition to what the ICI and C&D program costs.

Although utility projects are typically funded by borrowing from the CIP, City Council made an amendment on May 18, 2021 that the Residential Curbside Organics program is funded through an unrestricted grant funding, reducing the projected monthly fee to utility customers. Despite this change, ongoing costs with the curbside organics program will continue to be funded by those paying utility fees, not from property taxes.

Residential organics collection is the next step in the Waste Diversion Strategy. Since the implementation of curbside recycling, 15% more recyclables have been diverted away from the landfill, compared to 2015.

Another statement brought to our attention has been "The City Council chose the Residential sector putting as high as 50%  a year targets on 22,000 tones of waste with approximately 6500 tonnes of organics compared to 21,000 of ICI organics." Please note that if the residential target is diverting 50% of waste, the goal is actually diverting 11,000 tonnes of organic material, not 6,500 tonnes. The new compost facility will be able to manage that volume.

We know there will be a lot of questions as we continue to explore organics and waste diversion in our community.

For residents, we will continue to update curbside.lethbridge.ca with information about the residential program as decisions are made.

For more information about business waste diversion, visit www.lethbrdge.ca/businesswaste.


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