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Municipal landfill waste diversion efforts showing signs of success

The City of Greater Sudbury shifted toward the collection of two bags/cans/bundles of curbside garbage pickup every other week in February, which is considered industry best practice
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The city’s latest landfill waste diversion efforts appear to be bearing fruit, with more people making use of the city’s green cart for organic waste and blue box recycling programs. 

This shift accompanied the city completing a five-year phased shift from collecting up to three bags/cans/bundles of garbage from residences every week to only two every other week, with each unit limited to 40 pounds.

“It’s not like we’re not picking it up, we’re just saying sort it,” Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh said, adding that people are now putting more material into the green and blue boxes, for which the city offers unlimited pickup. 

McIntosh serves as chair of the city’s operations committee, which oversees the city’s waste collection efforts. 

The shift toward picking up two units of garbage every other week began in 2016 and was completed in February of this year. Although McIntosh said there was some public concern at first, people have adapted and have been diverting more waste from the city’s landfill sites.

“You have fewer trucks driving around, you have less greenhouse gases coming off the landfill and you’re saving the landfill space, making it last longer,” she said, adding that she considers the effort a success.

This assessment is supported by statistics the city collected over the course of four consecutive weeks in June, when they studied 2,949 households in the Capreol, Lively, New Sudbury West and Ramsey Lake areas. 

Of these households, 43 per cent reported participating in green cart organics collection, which is a jump from the 27 per cent reported in 2018. 

During this same timeframe, households engaged in blue box recycling increased from 91 per cent to 92 per cent and the number of households with three or more blue boxes increased by six per cent. 

The number of households with only one garbage bag/can/bundle per week increased by 19 per cent in this timeframe.

Between 2018 and 2021, the tonnes of blue box recycling collected at the curbside increased from 9,296 tonnes to an estimated 10,347 tonnes. Green cart organics increased from 2,269 tonnes to approximately 4,680 tonnes. 

All of these figures point to diversion from the city’s landfill sites, acting manager of collection and recycling Nataly Wissell told Sudbury.com, adding that the Sudbury Landfill Site’s projected lifespan 25 years ago was 25 years, and it still is thanks to waste diversion efforts.

“The landfill is quite a valuable resource, so we don’t want to waste that space on anything that can be diverted,” she said. “Anything that we can divert from the landfill to prolong the life of it, that’s what we’re trying to encourage our citizens to do.”

Accompanying the shift toward lessening garbage pickup in lieu of a greater reliance on green carts and blue boxes, the city has adopted a number of programs to help residents.

Diaper, medical and pet waste exemptions are available, pending the recipient takes part in the city’s green cart and blue box programs, with the city also offering a rebate on cloth diapers

Residents have options for circumstances in which they have garbage that exceeds the city’s limits, with garbage bag tags available for purchase at $10 for five tags and the option of dropping off up to 50kg of material at a municipal landfill site every week free of charge.

Despite these accommodations, Wissell said the city’s underlying intention remains finding ways to encourage people to contribute less waste to the landfill sites. 

With February’s shift toward collection every second week, Wissell said the city now maintains what is considered best practice in the industry.

“I don’t foresee it moving any further,” she said. “The next steps will really be about encouraging the residents who haven’t already jumped on board to get on board. It’s about showing them that it’s easy to do and it’s a great way to divert their waste.”



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Tyler Clarke

About the Author: Tyler Clarke

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.
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