A Closer Look at Trash, Tags, and Toonies

The proposed user-pay system has generated a string of angry letters to the editor at local newspapers.  Readers’ comments about garbage collection are big on emotion but short on the facts. Here’s a closer look at what’s currently allowed, what the actual garbage volume is now, and the impact of what is planned. The numbers suggest that the ‘average’ household could have no change in cost if the amount of garbage put out for collection is reduced by 25% or 1.9 kg. per person per week.

What’s Allowed Now

Simcoe County allows one ‘bag’ of garbage per week. That is defined as a maximum of 77 litres, up to 20 kilograms, in one container. In one year, that amounts to a household volume of 4,004 litres or 4.0 cubic metres (141 cubic feet) of garbage weighing up to 1,040 kg. (2,288 lbs) per year.

What We Put Out for Collection Now

According to Simcoe County Waste Management, residents generate 392 kg. of waste per person, per year. At an average of 2.73 persons per household, that equals 1,070 kg. per household per year. That’s 30 kg. more than the 1,040 kg. basic allowance, which suggests the ‘average’ household uses 2 garbage tags per year costing a total of another $4.00.

Just to put this in perspective, that’s about 16.6 pounds of garbage per person per week, or more than 2 pounds of garbage per person per day – excluding recycled materials.

Adapting to a User-Pay System

How will the average household be affected by a user-pay system? The County intends to lower the assessment for garbage collection from $150 per household to $70 per household but all garbage would have to have a $2.00 bag tag. If one bag is put out each week, that’s 52 x $2 = $104 plus the $70 assessment = $174.

To maintain the same cost per household, the fee would be $70 (assessment) + 40 x $2 (tags) = $150. The amount of household garbage would have to be reduced from 1,070 kg. (estimated) per household to  800 kg. (40 weeks x 20 kg.) That’s a 25% reduction in garbage by weight.

Is this an unreasonable expectation? My own experience suggests that it’s not and data from Simcoe County shows why. In 2009, garbage placed for collection contained:

  • 23% food waste
  • 16% divertible paper
  • 11% pet waste
  • 5% recyclable plastic, metal, and glass
  • 30% ‘mixed waste’ including diapers, textiles, carpets, furniture and mattresses.

The County would like to eventually boost the diversion rate from 57% to 77% and there appears to be opportunity to achieve that.

Some households of up to seven people manage well under the current one bag limit. My two-person household does not create anywhere near 20 kg. or 77 litres of garbage per week and I could put garbage (mostly plastic packaging) out every second week to save $28.00/year under the new user-pay system.

Here’s a summary of the figures mentioned above:

Tax Assessed, $150 / household

HH/yr

Person/yr

Person/week

Cu. M

Kg. Kg. Lbs Kg.

Lbs

Maximum

4.0

1,040 381 838 7.3

16.1

Max. plus tags

1,070 392 862 7.5

16.6

User Pay, $150 / household

HH/yr

Person/yr

Person/week

Cu. M

Kg. Kg. Lbs Kg.

Lbs

1 bag per week

800 293 644 5.6

12.3

User Pay, $122 / household

HH/yr

Person/yr

Person/week

Cu. M

Kg. Kg. Lbs Kg.

Lbs

1 bag / 2 weeks 520 190 419 3.6

8.0

Published previously:

Talking Trash Around the County

UK and US Garbage Collection Going High Tech

 

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5 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Trash, Tags, and Toonies

  1. You seem to have the wrong figures. In 2011 the county is allowing us 55 bags which equals 4235 litres.
    If you simply allow 52 bags you have an immediate saving of 5.45%.
    I you charge $1.50 per bag there will be incentive to reduce, if you use 52 bags the bill would be $8.0 dollars more and if you used more then you would be penalised more.
    For an incentive to work it must be percieved to be achievable.
    The only Grumpy old whiner I have seen is you.

    • Thanks for the new math. I wasn’t planning to be the Don Rickles of blogging but I guess I have been a little out of sorts lately. The underlying theme that I find here is a ‘can’t do’ attitude. When you say the incentive must be perceived as achievable, you imply that the County’s proposal is not. Will it really be that much of a challenge to reduce waste by 3 bags or 5 bags?
      The green bin program has shown that Innisfil residents can rise to a challenge and take a leadership role. The question that needs to be solved is this: what incentive or disincentive would attract the most participation and result in the highest level of waste diversion? The County needs to do more work to find out.

  2. I hope you’re right about it not costing struggling families more money. The big “what if” is the $2 per bag fee. User fees are a great way to hide tax increases — simply up the per bag rate instead of general taxes. User fees are usually used for programs that are only used by a few people such as recreation programs. The problem with garbage collection is it’s mandatory, you can’t opt out unless you plan on dumping it at the side of the road, which some will opt to do. Trend carefully here, and remember to question everything that’s done in the name of Green. Sometimes Green is an excuse to dip into our pockets.

    • Actually, we can opt out of the use-and-dispose consumer lifestyle to some degree. I’m thinking in terms of more local fresh food, fewer prepared and frozen packaged foods, or repairing instead of replacing things, or deciding you just don’t need some “things” at all. Simcoe County wants to eventually push the garbage diversion rate above 70% so we will all be mostly opting out of ‘garbage disposal’ (please note, not ‘collection’, that’s just the tip of the iceberg). The trend is to make manufacturers responsible for the entire life cycle – including recycling – of their products. Then we will be paying for that in the purchase price. The 3Rs are reduce, reuse, recycle. There is no collect, dump, bury

  3. It’s high time we implement a user pay system. I think it’s a brilliant idea. Having residents purchase bag tags is an excellent way to increase awareness about the amount of waste their household is producing. Hopefully it will be a wake up call for people to reduce their waste.

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