Solid Waste & Recycling


Organics Pilot Project

Even supporters of Toronto's plan to ship garbage to the Adam's Mine recognise that it's a stopgap measure. Public pressure is growing to see the city follow the lead of jurisdictions such as Halifax ...

Even supporters of Toronto’s plan to ship garbage to the Adam’s Mine recognise that it’s a stopgap measure. Public pressure is growing to see the city follow the lead of jurisdictions such as Halifax and Edmonton and divert more waste from landfill, hopefully well before the end of any 20-year rail-haul disposal contract. Diversion of the organic component (that constitutes roughly half of municipal trash) is critical to success. On August 1, with this goal in mind, Toronto Council approved a new pilot project to process source-separated commercial waste.


In 1996 Toronto’s public works department initiated a small-scale project to collect source-separated commercial organic waste. The project involved two downtown restaurants and two greengrocers that were required to separate their organics and set them out in 32- and 64-gallon wheeled carts. Organics collection was provided six nights a week for three months.

“To provide and economic incentive, businesses will recieve two nights a week waste collection a ‘base service’ and three and four nights organics collection as a free ‘special service’ during the pilot project.”

According to Renee Dello, coordinator of waste diversion planning for solid waste management services, “Participation was sporadic. The companies complained about inadequate on-premises space for the carts, difficulty getting carts to the curb and labour intensity in the absence of economic incentives.” Municipal staff overcame significant logistical challenges posed by source separation and set out.

The works committee met on November 3, 1999 to discuss lessons from the 1996 project and to consider a revised one in the Don River area. The local business improvement association and three businesses said they were unwilling to pay more for separate organics collection and that, if anything, there should be a financial incentive. On March 22, 2000 the works committee met again and requested a report on a source-separated organics program for commercial waste.

Program details

“Ideally,” says Ms. Dello, “a pilot project like this should be undertaken in an area with a concentration of restaurants and greengrocers that generate organic-rich material.” In Ward 25 there are approximately 100 such businesses that currently receive five and six night a week waste collection that are potential participants. It is proposed that during the pilot businesses receive two nights a week waste collection and either three or four nights of organics collection. The pilot project will operate for three months. (The start date wasn’t announced by press time).

Mindful of complaints about carts from certain businesses in 1996, stores and restaurants will be allowed to reuse their cardboard and waxed cardboard cartons for organic set-out, supplemented with clear plastic bags and cellulose-lined kraft paper bags. The city will supply half of the participants with kraft bags and the other half with clear plastic bags. (Many already use their cardboard boxes for packing organic waste but will now have the opportunity to use bags.)

Cellulose-lined kraft bags were selected to provide wet-strength for organic waste; also, the “breathability” of the bags reduces odours. Clear plastic bags will allow collectors to see the contents.

The Mixed Waste Recycling and Organics Processing Facility will not be completed until sometime in 2001. If the pilot project is implemented before then, it will be necessary to deliver the material to a facility further away such as the Canada Composting facility in Newmarket. The tipping fee at this facility is $55 per tonne and it’s expected that approximately 720 tonnes of organics will be collected and composted during the pilot project.

“It’s expected that 720 tonnes of organics will be collected and composted during the pilot project.”

And what about incentives? Businesses that currently pay extra for waste collection five or six times per week will be provided two nights of waste collection as the “base service” and three and four nights a week organics collection at no cost as a “special service.” By waiving these fees the city will lose approximately $21,656.

A large number of businesses in the area are behind in paying such service fees. (Only 40 per cent have fully or partially paid this year.) Only businesses that have paid in full are eligible to participate in the pilot project.

Although collection levels will remain constant (with organics replacing waste on certain nights), costs will rise by about $10 per tonne because of the distance of the remote composting facility. However, this will be offset by savings in transfer, haulage and local disposal. (There will be no impact on tonnes shipped to the Arbor Hills site in Michigan.)

As the pilot project had not been approved for the 2000 budget, $73,656 in additional funding is required. The financial impact of undertaking the pilot project will be monitored and reported quarterly. Expected amendments to the plan were unavailable at press time.

Estimated impact:

Composting of organics $40,000)
Bags 10,000)
Promotion 2,000)

Reduction in service fee revenue 21,656)

Additional collection costs 7,200)

(Less) disposal cost savings (7,200)

TOTAL $73,656)

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