*UPDATE Jan 30* Victory! Council directed City staff to study the issue further, and voted not to rush ahead with privatizing waste collection in Scarborough until more information is available. Read about what happened at Council here.
Toronto City Council is about to make a decision about waste diversion services, one of the most important environmental programs in Toronto.
In this report, TEA identifies why Council must be cautious and seek further information before voting to contract out waste collection in Scarborough.
- City data from the last three years shows that waste diversion rates are consistently lower in districts with contracted waste collection. In fact, Scarborough has the highest waste diversion rate in Toronto and it’s 4% higher than Etobicoke. As Toronto’s landfill is reaching capacity and garbage fees are increasing, we know that now, more than ever, diversion rates must go up. Since it takes 5 years to increase the city’s diversion rate by 4%, it’s clearly a significant number.
- Council and the public don’t have enough information to know if collection contracts are affecting diversion rates. We do know that collection workers in all districts play a key role in maintaining and improving our diversion rate by preventing contamination, refusing prohibited waste and untagged bags, and leaving notices to educate residents.
- Waste contracts can have a negative impact on waste diversion and Toronto collection contracts have made it expensive or impossible to add new waste diversion services. Whether it’s sending recyclables and organics to landfill or padding truck weight, there are too many stories from Toronto and the GTA of private waste companies caught breaking the rules or harming the environment to ignore.
- Close monitoring and strict enforcement are essential to understand what waste collectors are doing and to ensure contractors are following the contract terms. Unfortunately, Toronto’s Auditor has repeatedly noted that Solid Waste contracts in Toronto have not been monitored in a consistent way and lacked enforcement. Even when contractors have been found to break the rules over the years, they are not facing penalties.
- Despite Council’s request for regular reports on contractor performance, only 7 of 18 reports have been submitted to Public Works & Infrastructure Committee. Council and the public simply don’t have the necessary information to indicate what else, other than contracting out, could explain the lower diversion rate west of Yonge Street.
Without better information and more confidence in the system, it is simply not worth putting Scarborough’s success at risk by contracting out waste collection. Right now, Scarborough has the highest diversion rate in Toronto and we’re embarking on a Long Term Waste Strategy to improve diversion rates city-wide. While we don’t have all the information we need on waste collection contracts, we do know there are significant monitoring gaps, insufficient enforcement, and that key metrics are not being reported or even tracked.