Trash Talk – Schedule Changes for Waste Management Facilities

When I was re-elected in October of 2017 I didn’t expect that I be spending this much time talking about trash. Waste & Recycling Services might not be the most glamorous issue facing Council, but how we manage these facilities really matters to Calgarians.

Waste & Recycling Services is a self-funded business unit. That means the operating costs for the business unit are directly covered by fees for collection and dumping materials in our landfills. Over the last decade The City of Calgary has embarked on an ambitious waste diversion strategy. This started with our Blue Cart recycling and has been further enhanced with the Green Cart composting program.

While these programs are helping to build a more sustainable Calgary and save taxpayers larger costs in the future, it does have an impact on the business of garbage. With more materials being diverted we have seen a significant revenue shortfall in Waste & Recycling Services. That means we either need to find ways to increase revenue or reduce our costs.

As a result of these revenue difficulties a number of schedule changes are going into effect on February 5, 2018. The most notable schedule change is the closure of the Shepard facility to all traffic except for industrial waste customers and the Green Cart fleet.

I have heard from a lot of folks that live in south Calgary that are very unhappy with these changes. As such, I have had numerous conversations with senior leadership in Waste & Recycling Services over the last few months. I have made it clear to them that I will be challenging them on these service changes and exploring some alternative ways we can offer landfill services to residents.

Earlier this week I handed in the following Notice of Motion:

The Notice of Motion is fairly self-explanatory. I’d like some answers to the questions that I have raised and I need to be reassured that we have explored our options. I appreciate the financial situation Waste & Recycling Services is facing, but I think we could be doing more to provide service. As I have often said during my time on Council, The City of Calgary needs to operate like a business but behave like a service organization.

I’m not the kind of person that focuses on problems. I like to focus on solutions. I have a few ideas how we could address our financial situation while still offering service:

Throw and Go for Residential Customers

Residential customers are going to be particularly inconvenienced with these schedule changes. We need to find ways that folks could get rid of an old couch or safely dispose of hazardous products. Our Shepard facility has a Throw and Go area where customers can drive up and dump materials into specific bins. These areas also have minimal staffing requirements. I’d like to see the Throw and Go remain open for residential customers with smaller loads. A modest form of cost recovery may need to be considered to cover the operating costs of keeping this service open.

Waste Transfer Stations

Waste transfer stations are a fixture throughout rural areas, and I see no reason why we couldn’t incorporate some of these here in Calgary. We could have small scale transfer stations throughout the city where customers could unload. Once the bins at these locations are filled up they would be transferred to a landfill site. In order to cover costs, we could even explore a modest fee for customers dropping materials at the site. These stations could enhance the convenience of our service while streamlining some of our operating costs.

These are just a few solutions that I’ve been talking about, I’m sure there are many other ways we could address these problems. The Notice of Motion will before Council on January 29th.