Published May 29, 2024

Simcoe County councillors nix proposal to get more residents on board organics program

A proposal that would have required residents to participate in the County of Simcoe's organics program or risk not having their curbside garbage collected has been tossed in the trash heap.

At council's committee of the whole meeting on May 14, a staff recommendation was approved that would have seen garbage carts collected from residential properties only if an organics cart was also at the curbside.

On Tuesday, councillors backtracked and voted against implementation of the proposed program.

Clearview Mayor Doug Measures asked for the item to be pulled from the agenda for discussion.

"I feel that it is a premature recommendation to bring forward the compost and garbage matching program that was suggested by the staff," Measures stated.

In particular, Measures had concern with a section of the staff report as to how residents could opt out of curbside organics collection.

"Should a resident have their own system and/or feel they do not produce any organics, staff will accept applications from residents requesting to be exempt from this program," the report states. "Before approving an exemption, staff would audit the location's garbage to determine if there are any organic materials present," according to the report. "If there are none, then staff would make their garbage cart as eligible to be collected without an organics cart present."

Measures said the idea of exemptions is very important if the program was going to be rolled out, suggesting what staff was recommending was premature.

"Overall, the message that I'm now hearing from residents of Simcoe County who have contacted me is this program will not work in our rural communities, that's for sure."

Measures noted that a backyard composter is a reality for a lot of residents.

"I think we need to respect that and give people the benefit of the doubt that that's what they're actually doing. The question was put by staff as to whether or not people were actually using their compost bins, and I've had residents say they've never put it out because they do completely compost in their backyard."

Among the drivers by staff to push for the new program was recent audits that indicated 46 per cent of what is placed in the garbage carts should have been placed in the organics cart, and on a weekly basis, approximately one-quarter of residents are not participating in the program.

The county's curbside organics program has been in place since 2008, the report stated, and while it has been successful in diverting over 200,000 tonnes of organics from the landfill, there was still room for improvement.

Ramara Township Deputy Mayor Keith Bell said if there is an exemption, it had to be simplified.

"I am not willing to support something where we're policing people's garbage, and it's costing a lot for people to go out and check garbage, checking composters and rubberstamping things to say they have it in place," Bell added.

Wasaga Beach Mayor Brian Smith didn't want to go down a path that could lead to the opening of a new can of worms.

"It's always a struggle to create any kind of rules, regulations or make changes when the changes we are going to make are very possibly going to cause other issues that are going to be the same or even bigger," Smith said. "The citizens of the County of Simcoe have to come to the table with us on waste management many, many times and the proof is in the pudding."

Smith pointed out that the county has been No. 1 or No. 2in waste diversion for many years.

"That tells me that our citizens are engaged," he added. "But to simply tell taxpayers, who are already paying for this service, that if they don't put out their green bin that we're not going to pick up their waste is problematic to me."

County council did ask staff to continue to look for areas where improvements can be made.

The issue that was discussed does not apply to the cities of Barrie and Orillia, which manage their own waste collection.

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