Claughton: One Size Does Not Fit ALL
City Council just completed a three-day budget review for 2017. There were some very good presentations given by Public Safety, Information Technology and many other departments. These departments with managers and staff in tow carrying armloads of documents, presented a well-prepared self analysis of their progress and their plans for the future on a number of programs including how Calgarians dispose of their household waste.
For some time, Waste and Recycling Services has been working on a mandatory collection program for yard waste and bio-degradable's, otherwise known as the Green Cart Program. This program will take effect in citywide in 2017. A recent Global News online poll indicated that 63.3 percent of the respondents wanted to have an option for paying the $6.50 month program. All of the households that embraced and invested in the current composting program will be asked to surrender the “black gold” resources they have been harvesting in their back yard to the City. In addition, there is a cost included for biodegradable bags.
Thanks to a very timely Council adopted motion, citizens will not see this charged to their monthly utility bill until 2018. The cost will come from reserves and waived for this year. “A lot of it had to do with giving people a chance to transition into changing their habits," says Councillor Pootmans. Councillor Woolley added, “We are seeing a significant economic downturn right now, all Calgarian’s know that.”
During debate, a question arose, “Is the black cart size going to be reduced based on the fact that the new green carts divert 40 percent of the landfill bound garbage?" The response was NO. As well it was asked if “The new green bin were going to be the same smaller size utilized in the pilot program?” The answer again, was NO. I believe, this decision is short sighted and wasteful. When “the why” was asked, the answer was that “existing equipment could not properly handle the smaller bins.” This logic falls short as it is an option available in many other municipalities. So, "Why not in Calgary?"
Why is Administration not making more common sense shifts in the procurement of automation and “capital assets” aka the collection trucks? I believe that there needs to be a greater evolution of change to be included in future plans and budgets. Calgary’s recycling program is more than 25 years old. One would think by now it might be better understood. If private enterprise is running the operation under contract, they would need to be actively improving and adapting to innovations being introduced by industry.
People want choices. As a senior recently pointed out, “We hardly fill one bin every two weeks, let alone two large bins weekly!” Think about it, if we divert 40 percent away with the green cart program and the blue carts are easily another 40 percent that leaves 20 percent for a black bin. Taking into account that the black bins will now only be picked up bi-weekly, there is absolutely no way the large bins are needed. Common sense would dictate that our City should take the lead of cities like Kelowna, Richmond, Surrey, Victoria and Peel Regional who have either smaller bins or offer a choice of sizes.
When Government imposes services on the taxpayers knowing full well the customer must pay, it does not see a need to think differently. In the grand scheme of things, if a truck skips past a house that is composting on its own requiring less frequent pickups, does it cost the City? No it doesn't, the truck gets more coverage of the daily route. If a homeowner is absent six months of the year should they still pay? We can all agree we absolutely need to divert from the landfills and embrace the 3 R’s, Reuse, Recycle and Reduce. The last one is the key. Reduce frequency, size, expense and wasting tax dollars.
Tim Claughton is a volunteer with Common Sense Calgary.