November 14, 2019

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A master plan for trash

Council approves $50 annual fee to help encourage recycling

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2011 (2947 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/10/2011 (2947 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ten years after city council squashed a plan to limit trash and increase recycling, Winnipeg will finally move ahead with a strategy to improve a waste record one councillor calls a "national disgrace."

On Wednesday, the majority of city council voted in favour of a new garbage and recycling master plan that will add a $50 annual fee to residents' water bills. Winnipeg will replace garbage cans, autobins and blue boxes with automated garbage and recycling carts by October 2012 in an effort to improve the city's dismal trash-diversion rates and get residents to recycle more and throw away less.

The carts hold 240 litres, which is roughly the size of three standard-sized garbage bags or four blue boxes.

The plan initially sparked backlash from some councillors who expressed concern the fee was another tax on residents and could be unfair to people who live in lower-income households.

Public works chairman Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) urged councillors to support the plan and improve Winnipeg's trash-diversion rate, which is among the worst in the country and on par with Regina. Only about 15 per cent of all waste is diverted away from landfills, Vandal said, and the changes are expected to increase the diversion rate to 55 per cent over the next decade.

"Nobody wants to be tied with Regina," Vandal said on the floor of council.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) called Winnipeg's record on waste diversion a "national disgrace" and said the plan is a huge step forward.

After a lengthy debate, the majority of council supported the plan by a vote of 11-4.

Couns. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) and Scott Fielding (St. James) supported the changes, just one week after they voted against the plan at council's executive policy committee. Havixbeck said the mayor did not ask her to switch her vote, and she and Fielding said they changed their minds after constituents expressed their disappointment at their initial position.

Couns. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan), Ross Eadie (Mynarski), Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre) voted against the master plan. Eadie argued for a more equitable way to distribute the fee and suggested it be based on a home's assessed value.

Mayor Sam Katz said Eadie's idea was well-intentioned but does not reward people for recycling more and throwing away less. Katz said some residents are likely opposed to the changes, but council voted in favour of what's best for the city.

He said the fee works out to 13.5 cents a day.

"This is the first step and it's a great first step," Katz said.

The fee will go into a special reserve account for waste minimization efforts and will help offset the cost of additional services, such as curbside yard-waste pickup every second week between April and November.

The plan also calls for "resource-recovery centres," where construction materials can be dropped off starting in 2013, and a kitchen waste-collection pilot project in 2014.

City council will now create a citizens' advisory committee that will work with administration to implement the new strategy. Some members of council say the city should find a way to reward people who throw away less garbage.

In other words, if you throw away less, you pay less. Katz said he thinks incentives could be part of future discussions. He said any changes to the master plan have to be approved by council.

Vandal said much has changed since council shot down a similar move to limit garbage and increase recycling 10 years ago under former mayor Glen Murray. In 2001, Murray suggested Winnipeg charge to pick up every garbage bag over the two-bag weekly limit.

"It's incredible. Ten years ago, we received so much negative feedback about the waste minimization initiatives compared to today," Vandal said, adding he thinks more than half of Winnipeggers likely support the new plan. "I think that tells me people are more in tune with those issues and people understand that environmental issues are more important than ever."

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

 

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