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City of Ottawa will need to choose: new dump or new incinerator to meet garbage needs

City staff say a new landfill or alternate technology, such as an incinerator, will be required to manage Ottawa’s future garbage needs.

Meanwhile, residents will soon be required to put out less garbage at the curb and can expect to pay more for garbage collection, regardless of what options council eventually decides to approve.

City councillors received a technical briefing Monday on the draft solid waste master plan, which is due to be finalized and submitted to council by spring 2024.

The city’s new plan to limit homes to three containers per pickup is expected to begin by June 2024. That’s just one of many steps staff say residents will have to take to reduce the amount of garbage sent to the landfill each year.

The presentation outlined a 30-year plan to handle garbage and recycling in the city, as the Trail Road landfill is rapidly filling up.

“The management of solid waste is complex and there is no one ‘silver bullet’ solution,” the presentation said.

It includes five objectives: maximizing the reduction and reuse of waste, maximizing the recycling of waste, maximizing the recover of waste and energy, maximizing operational advancements and developing a “zero-waste culture” across the city.

City staff say time is running out to set plans into motion and decisions must be made by this term of council. Landfill could reach capacity between 2034 and 2035 if no changes are made to disposal habits.

The draft plan does include a move to fill in valleys in the Trail Road facility, which could add an extra eight years to the life of the landfill, extending it to 2042-43 to give the city time to build whatever new facility is approved.

Alternative technologies

Staff are looking at three technological alternatives to a future landfill, including waste-to-energy incineration, mixed waste processing, and anaerobic digestion.

A waste-to-energy incinerator has the potential to reduce the amount of waste that has to go to a landfill by 73 per cent, potentially extending the life of the Trail Road facility beyond 2053. Staff say it could also result in fewer emissions compared to the status quo.

A mixed waste processing facility, which takes in all garbage and then sorts out materials for diversion, would help reduce an extra 30,000 tonnes of organic waste from the landfill each year. This plan could extend the life of the Trail landfill to 2053, but a new landfill would eventually be required.

Anaerobic digestion uses special bacteria to break down organic waste, such as animal waste, food, and sewage. It produces renewable natural gas. It could reduce yearly emissions by an amount equivalent to 1,344 passenger vehicles per year by 2053, staff say.

Documents prepared for the briefing show that the city is considering incorporating anaerobic digestion into the other plans for either a mixed waste facility or an incinerator. Each plan will cause the annual household cost for garbage collection to jump significantly.

Say goodbye to cheap garbage

Regardless of what plan the city chooses, it’s going to cost households more to collect trash.

Ottawa households pay $185 per year in solid waste charges, among the lowest of major cities in Canada, $130 in rates and $55 in taxes. Toronto households pay $473 per year. Edmonton households pay the most, at $585.

Projections from city staff show that households in Ottawa will have another eight to nine years of cheap garbage before the estimated household costs start to climb, jumping from around $300 per household in 2032 to close to between $400 and $500 by 2033.

By 2053, household costs could reach almost $500 if an incinerator is approved. If the city goes with a mixed waste processing facility, costs would rise above the $500 mark.

The draft solid waste master plan is to be submitted to the environment and climate change committee on Nov. 21, and council on Dec. 6. Public engagement on the plan will take place in the first quarter of 2024, with the final solid waste master plan up for approval by the second quarter of next year.

“Decisions need to be made within this Term of Council,” staff say. “Increased funding is needed regardless of (solid waste master plan) action approval. Even status quo service is unsustainably funded. Preserving landfill airspace is priority. A new landfill and/or alt technology will be required to manage Ottawa’s future waste needs.” 

Read the presentation

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