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Simcoe County wants less garbage

Andrew Michael of Essa Township believes a smaller-sized garbage bin would be a good thing in an effort to reduce the amount of needless waste that enters landfills. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Andrew Michael of Essa Township believes a smaller-sized garbage bin would be a good thing in an effort to reduce the amount of needless waste that enters landfills. Mark Wanzel/Barrie Examiner/Postmedia Network

Andrew Michael hauls his garbage can to the curb once a week and doesn't give its contents a second thought.

But that might soon change if Simcoe County council approves a pilot project encouraging residents to adhere to an 80-litre bin or bag limit.

“We manage on the (bigger) current size, but I do feel sometimes we're putting out more than we have to,” the Essa Township resident said.

“We do fairly well recycling, but you do hear from time to time to go further and break things down and recycle more,” Michael said.

In fact, waste management staff at the county have determined more than 40% of the garbage bag contents its residents toss are recyclable.

To that end, the waste department has been given initial approval from county council, which could be approved on Nov. 2, to host four separate pilot projects to determine which method will encourage residents to toss more in their green bins than cans.

First off, Simcoe's contract and collections supervisor Willma Bureau, said most commercially-purchased garbage cans hold more than the allowed 80-litres of waste.

“Many cans hold 121 litres or more,” Bureau said, adding,“But even the extra large garbage bags are twice the (80-litre) size.”

To that end, county staff proposed half-a-dozen options to encourage residents to sort more carefully, and chose four to move forward with in a 2018 pilot project.

The four programs, each with 1,800 rural and urban residents, include supplying 80-litre bins, supplying 80-litre bags, enforcing a zero-tolerance (no pick-up) of bags over the limit, and offering regulation cans for sale at a reduced rate of approximately $7.50.

Staff chose those options over moving to an every-other week pick-up cycle or what Bureau calls a 'pay-as you-throw' bag tag system.

Environmental staff also considered moving to automated trucks that pick up size-specific cans without human intervention.

“That's North-American wide now. They're using that in Toronto and the Region of Peel,” she said. “It's faster and cuts down on Workplace Safety and Insurance Board claims.”

The four pilot projects are expected to be approved and go into effect next spring, followed by surveys to residents determining which scenario increased more diversion and fewer complaints. Staff is expected to report to county council in 2019.

Although Barrie doesn't have an 80-litre size restriction on its garbage cans, it cut its diversion to the landfill by half when it moved to a bi-weekly garbage program, with green and blue bins still collected weekly.

Barrie's program's statistics showed after the system was adopted in Jan. 2015, the city saw a 52% increase in organic waste recycling and a 16% decrease in garbage tonnage.

Both the city of Barrie and Simcoe County are running their annual battery recycling program Nov. 6 to Nov. 10.

Until the test sites are determined, Michael said he'll continue to try to gauge what to put in which bin.

Yet he does point a finger at grocery and department stores for some of the excessive waste.

“If manufacturers were made to be more environmentally friendly with their packaging, we wouldn't have so much waste,” he said.

Cbrowne@postmedia.com