Secret Garbage Privatization Deal Poised to Hurt the Environment

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2011

Toronto: A proposal to develop and sign – behind closed doors – a deal to privatize garbage pick up for over 165,000 households is bad for the environment, says a local environmental group.

“Councillors are being asked to override their own rules that require Council approval for big contracts and instead let a small group of unelected staff write and sign a huge contract to privatize garbage collection,” said Franz Hartmann, the Executive Director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “That means no one will know until after the ink is dry how the new contract affects green bin and recycling pick up.”

“The job of a private waste company is to make a profit, not ensure the city’s waste diversion goals are met,” said Hartmann.  “We need strong language in any contract to make sure waste diversion isn’t compromised in the drive for profit. Unfortunately, the public and Councillors will have no idea whether this language will be in the contract.”

Hartmann noted there are many examples of past contracts with private waste companies that include financial penalties to municipalities when they introduce new waste diversion programs.

Yesterday, Councillor Minnan-Wong, the Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, released a report with recommendations to bypass Council oversight in writing and signing contracts that would privatize waste collection, including for over 165,000 households.  The contracts will be worth about $250 million.

“I find it extremely suspicious that Councillors are being left out of drafting the contract and reviewing it before it’s signed,” said Hartmann. “Usually when people want to do things behind closed doors, it’s because they don’t want the public to see what they are doing.”

Hartmann also noted that Councillors do not have enough information in front of them to determine whether privatization is good or bad. “No definitive studies have been done on whether privatization affects waste diversion. And there is no proof that privatization saves taxpayers money,” said Hartmann.

“Councillors are being asked to sign off on a secret process before they’ve even had an opportunity to discuss whether privatization in Toronto makes financial and environmental sense,” said Hartmann. “We hope Councillors will reject this secret process and replace it with one that allows for real public discussion about this important issue.”