Report recommends changes to Fredericton's garbage, recycling programs

Phasing out drop-off recycling depots and considering compost recycling are some of the recommendations in a new report prepared for Fredericton city council.

A draft report of the garbage and recycling program review was presented to members of the city's public safety and environment committee on Tuesday.

The city hired consultants from GHD in 2016 to review its collection program and make recommendations on how to divert items from the landfill.

Project manager Andrew Philopoulous told the committee that while most residents surveyed said the city's current recycling program was well-regarded, many believe the program does not keep enough material out of the landfill.

Philopoulous said the city's current diversion rate was calculated to be 19 per cent, which is low compared to other Canadian jurisdictions, but noted there's no standard method for calculating diversion across Canada.

Automated curbside collection of garbage

One of the recommendations in the draft report is to move towards a cart and automated arm collection system, which Philopoulous said is a common trend in North America.

Philopoulous said residents would be provided with a standard cart, which the collection trucks would be able to pick up.

He said there are many benefits to an automated system, including fewer health and safety claims, and increased diversion rates.

But, moving to an automated system can be quite costly for taxpayers.

Philopoulous said upfront capital costs to purchase the carts would range from $890,000 if the city automated just garbage collection, to nearly $3.7 million if it chose to automate garbage, recycling and organic collection.

Annual operating costs would range from between $56,000 to $220,000, depending on which option was chosen.

But Philopoulous said introducing automation could save up to 6.4 per cent in annual operating costs.

He said the city could also look at implementing a so-called pay-as-you-throw system, where residents would be charged an annual fee for their garbage carts depending on the size and number they require.

Philopoulous said that would encourage residents to get smaller carts and become more engaged in recycling.

Curbside recycling program for multi-unit residential buildings

Philopoulous' report also recommends the city phase out drop-off recycling depots and expand its curbside recycling program to multi-unit residential buildings with more than four units.

He said the three recycling depots setup for multi-unit residents are not convenient or effective at capturing recyclables, and bring about improper sorting and contamination issues.

Philopoulous said the city should work with property managers and landlords to develop a bylaw with a goal of ensuring all residents have access to recycling programs.

Residential compost program

The draft report also recommends the city explore the option of compost recycling, which Philopoulous said is one of the top priorities for residents.

Philopoulous said some of the things the city would need to consider would be collection infrastructure, processing and cost.

Fredericton Region Solid Waste currently captures landfill gas from organics and other materials placed in the landfill to generate electricity.

Philopoulous said it would likely cost between $6 million and $15 million to build a new composting facility.

But he said FRSW currently has no plans to implement a residential compost program.

He said if the city wants to implement an SSO program, it should engage with FRSW as a stakeholder and create a business case analysis.

Other recommendations contained in the report include developing an overall solid waste management strategy to outline short- and long-term goals, undertaking a residential waste audit, developing a promotion and education plan to create greater engagement with residents, and working with Greener Village to promote backyard composting.

You can view the report in its entirety on the city's website.

Next steps

Philopoulous said the two recommendations the city could implement in the short-term are the solid waste management strategy and the promotion and education plan.

Coun. Stephen Chase, who chairs the city's public safety and environment committee, said he's excited to receive the report from GHD.

"I think it's something that the residents have been asking for," he said. "People want to participate in recycling and to see improved waste management, and I think this GHD report is going to provide a basis for moving forward and meeting some of those expectations."

Chase said the draft report will now be sent to staff, who will provide council with some direction about where to go from here.

He said council has to carefully consider the costs of the larger initiatives before making any final decisions.

"While people may want to participate in programs like this, it's important that everyone understand what costs are represented so that if we decided to either bring them in or not bring them in, that we know that the magnitude of costs. We really couldn't take an informed decision if we didn't know that."

Chase said he likes the idea of a pay-as-you-throw system, but would first like to see a staff report so council and citizens can understand what the implications might be.

He said he hopes to see a report back from staff by July or August of this year.