Dumping the millions of tonnes of garbage produced annually in Ontario into landfills produces greenhouse gases and other toxins as it slowly decomposes. That slow decomposition rate creates another problem – finding the space to create more landfill sites to serve a growing population, which means trucking waste to distant sites. Recycling programs were initiated to divert waste from landfill, setting what seems to be an ambitious target for this city of 60 percent to be diverted within a decade. This case study looked specifically at recycling organic waste for composting, assessing the feasibility of a so-called “green bin” program for the City of London.
1. About 40 percent of garbage was organic; i.e. could be composted, although various factors may reduce the actual percentage to 15 using the program – not so impressive!
2. Other places already had similar programs, suggesting they can and do work.
3. The city’s greenhouse gases would be reduced by 65,000 tonnes annually. As the study equates that to 20,000 cars off the road, that sounds an impressive saving.
4. The expected city’s landfill life of 14 years would be increased by 2-3 years, delaying the need to convert more agricultural land for landfill. That extension of landfill life of between 14 and 20 percent sounds a really worthwhile gain.
5. Circa 20 city jobs would be created. (Not many in a city of 352,000 people).
6. Fertilizer produced from composting the waste is good, but of variable quality and must be sold cheap to compete with commercial chemical fertilizer or topsoil prices.
7. Issues with odours at homes and at processing centres would need to be addressed.
8. The program would raise annual taxes by circa $35 per home (about 1.5 percent); quite a bit when overall municipal tax increases are between 2.5 and three percent.
9. Capital costs would total almost $7 million, but predicted savings in trucking costs alone would be $6.2 million per year for three years, so effectively making the program much more financially viable.
1. Increasing the effectiveness of existing recycling programs such as the “blue box” program, by public education and by more public space recycling facilities, and by expanding the range of acceptable materials. All sound like good ideas.
2. Introducing mandatory recycling rules that could see non-compliant homeowners fined; reduced frequency of garbage collections, and fewer containers per household; also charging homeowners for each garbage bag collected. All unpopular measures!
1. London should implement a green bin program, irrespective of the potential cost to homeowners in additional municipal taxes. The environmental advantages (longer landfill life, reduced greenhouse gases and reduced chemical fertilizer usage) outweigh the possible financial impact.
House, David. London’s Green Bin Program. (2011). Richard Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario.