Recently, the provincial government indicated that it was ready to mandate that organic waste will not be able go into municipal landfills. Organics, essentially, are food and yard waste (table scraps, bones, fat, grease, leaves, etc.) and account for more than 40% of your household garbage. For cities with green bin programs, they would be in pretty good shape. However, for cities like London without a green bin program, well, let’s just say we have some work to do.
For years, London has flirted with establishing a green bin program but still has yet to implement one. In fact, several years ago, the City did a pilot project in the Pond Mills area that showed some very promising results. So why haven’t we gone down that road yet? The answer is primarily cost. Current estimates indicate that we would need about $12 million in start-up capital costs for the bins themselves and modifications to our garbage trucks, and about $4 million per year for the operating cost. However, the longer we wait, the more it will cost. That most recent estimate was nearly 50% higher than the cost estimate prepared just three years earlier.
Our landfill has about eight years of capacity left before we have to expand it. In order to get approval from the province for the expansion, we will need to significantly increase how much waste we divert from the landfill. We currently divert around 45% of household waste but we will likely need to get to at least 60%. One of the only ways to get there is by removing organics from residential garbage.
There are some intriguing technological advances on the horizon. In addition to green bin programs there are new biogas reactors that create energy from waste. A few other Canadian cities have built or are exploring such plants but the technology is still in its early stages and is currently quite expensive. We will be looking at these options through our EA process, in addition to the tried-and-true green bins.
I have a couple asks of you, though. First, please take the time to get involved in our waste management planning. There’s information and a survey asking about what’s important to you as we evolve our system. You can find it at https://getinvolved.london.ca/WhyWasteResource.
Second, and this is the most important, is to be conscious of how much you throw out each week. Recent local estimates have shown that Londoners throw away between $50 million to $100 million in unconsumed food each year! Reducing how much you put at the curb each week also helps to reduce how much we have to spend collecting it (which, in turn, helps keep your taxes in check). The City also sells composters and green cones (which can handle almost all organic waste) for $35. Check out the City website for details.
With just a little bit of work on our garbage habits, we can save energy and money, reduce greenhouse gas, and take some meaningful steps to improving our environment. Together, we can help make Ward 11 the greenest in the city!