Towns of Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, Newmarket, Whitchurch–Stouffville, and Township of King
Northern 6 Joint Waste Collection Contract and Green Bin Launch Project
Population: 229,216 (cumulative)
In September 2007, after more than a year of planning, six municipalities in the northern part of the Region of York rolled out a new waste collection system. The new system offers real cost savings to local governments, includes a "green bin" organics collection program and expanded recycling, and is anticipated to divert more than 65 per cent of the area's waste from landfill by 2010. The participating municipalities launched a public education program to announce the new system and shared the cost of establishing a toll-free call centre to answer residents' questions. After two months of implementing the new waste collection system, the participating municipalities almost doubled their diversion of waste from landfill, to an average of almost 70 per cent from an average of 34 per cent.
Composed of nine municipalities, York Region sits in the northern segment of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). As part of the GTA, it shares the huge waste disposal challenges posed by the high population density of Canada's largest urban area. The region's population was 918,000 in December 2005, a number that is expected to rise by 150,000 by 2011.
According to Statistics Canada, residential waste in the province of Ontario has been rising by 2.4 per cent annually since 2002. Across Ontario, landfill sites have not been able to keep up with the amount of waste from household and other sources.
In the early years of this decade, waste from the GTA had to be shipped to Michigan because all the GTA's landfill sites were full. When Michigan cried "foul" and the U.S. government threatened to close its border to Canadian waste, many regions in the GTA began looking for a better solution.
In April 2005, the regional municipalities of York and Durham launched a joint environmental assessment (EA) on waste management. That same year, Statistics Canada reported that York Region's citizens were creating waste at the level of 340 kilograms annually per person, divided between 114 kilograms to recycling programs and 226 kilograms to landfill sites. That breakdown represents a diversion rate of 34 per cent, far below the 60 per cent suggested for municipalities in 2004 by Waste Diversion Ontario.
- The new N6 waste collection system consists of weekly green bin organics collection; weekly blue box collection (with more items eligible for the box than before); garbage collection every other week, with a three-bag limit; and yard waste collection every other week between April and November (a change from four to six times annually under the old program).
- During the first two months, 1,560 tonnes of organic material and 1,916 tonnes of recyclables were diverted from landfill by the six municipalities. That change represented 492 fewer truck trips to landfill sites and reduced methane gas emissions at the sites thanks to reduced organics.
- The six municipalities estimate that their joint savings will be $11 million over 10 years. The savings stem from combining waste collection contracts, using a single communications campaign, and avoiding the outsourcing of communications expertise.
- GIVE YOURSELF TIME. The joint N6 project took less than one year to move from idea to implementation. "Because of the professionalism and expertise of many people, especially our communications staff, we were able to roll this out in record time," says Jim Koutroubis, director of public works and environmental services for the Town of Newmarket. "If we'd had two years, we could have implemented some ideas that we didn't have the time or budget to implement."
- HAVING COMMON GOALS IS CRUCIAL TO SUCCESS. "We all had to meet York Region's waste diversion target of 65 per cent by 2010," says Koutroubis. "We were six unique municipalities, with rural and urban mixes, yet because we had this common goal, we found that getting agreement worked well."
- FIND A WIN-WIN-WIN SOLUTION. Joint projects like this one can offer participating municipal governments significant benefits. "When you do joint projects like this, the residents win, the environment wins, and the bottom line for your municipality wins," says Koutroubis.
Partners and Collaboration
- Regional Municipality of York
- The "southern three" municipalities of Markham, Richmond Hill, and Vaughn (The N6 project benefited from the knowledge and experience of these neighbours. Each launched green bin programs before the N6 municipalities did.)