App tells Ottawa residents what kind of trash to put at the curb

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The city has launched an app to tell people what kind of trash — blue box, black box, green bin and residual waste — is being collected each week.Chris Mikula / The Ottawa Citizen

Jon Willing, Ottawa Sun

Determined to make recycling easier for residents, the City of Ottawa has launched an app that simply tells people what type of trash to put at their curbs each week.

Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of council’s environment and climate protection committee, called it the “one-stop shop” for garbage.

The app, which is called Ottawa Collection Calendar, was produced by ReCollect Systems and is available on Apple and Android devices.

It’s hard to say if an app will boost the city’s waste diversion rate.

The information is already on the city’s website, which includes a calendar that tells people what kind of garbage is being picked up on their collection days. Plus, there’s at least one app already created by a developer using city open data on the collection schedules.

Chernushenko said the city needs to “check off the ‘easy’ box” in helping people navigate the collection schedule.

The city suddenly has a heightened focus on garbage programs, particularly after community group Waste Watch Ottawa discovered the city’s diversion rate was low compared to other Ontario cities and regions.

Just as concerning, only about half of Ottawa residents are using their green bins to divert organic waste.

An app won’t help people figure out when to put out their green bins since the city empties the containers each week. The app will, however, help people figure out when to put out their trash cans, blue boxes and black boxes since those pickups are biweekly.

The city also has an opportunity to push more waste-related messages to residents through the app. For example, a message currently on the app tells people there’s a hazardous waste depot on Saturday at the Barrhaven snow dump on Strandherd at Kennevale drives.

Chernushenko was surprised to learn only about 66,000 people had signed up for a reminder service through the city’s website. He hopes the new app will give people another option to keep tabs on the collection schedule, rather than looking down the street to see what bins neighbours are putting out.

According to the city, there was no additional cost for the app since it was created under an existing service agreement with ReCollect Systems.

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Downtown councillors ponder possibilities of steeper tax hike

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About 100 people attended a municipal budget consultation hosted by five inner-city councillors at Ottawa city hall. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Public consultation held to ask whether residents would tolerate an extra 1% tax increase

By Matthew Kupfer, CBC News

City councillors and residents from Ottawa's five central wards spent Tuesday evening exploring the ways in which the city could spend extra tax dollars if the mayor and rest of council ever loosen their grip on the annual tax increase, currently capped at two per cent.

About 100 people attended the meeting at city hall to hear five pitches including improved winter maintenance, long-term arts funding, sustainable funding for new social services organizations, affordable housing and transitioning to cleaner energy.

Urban core councillors host budget consultation
The meeting was hosted by Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney and Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper.

They asked the crowd to consider paying one per cent more than they currently do in taxes — adding $14 million to city revenue and an expense of $35 per year for the average homeowner.

Green energy, new social enterprises

The most popular pitches were a $4 million capital investment in affordable housing, the renewable energy plan and supporting new social service organizations.

Janice Ashworth, general manager of the Ottawa Renewable Energy Co-op, said the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce is urging council to work on the energy transition.

She sketched out a $1.5 million plan to spend on electric car charging stations, a sustainability audit office, a tower retrofit program to improve energy efficiency and net-metering for solar energy.

"Let's take advantage of this money-making opportunity, let's stop wasting taxpayer dollars literally in smokestacks or in wasted heat from inefficient light bulbs," she said.

Green Bin program's 'yuck factor' still bedevils city hall

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is trapped in a green bin of confusion, not knowing how to get more people to scrape the guck from their plates into a bucket instead of a trash can.

After being shamed by Waste Watch Ottawa into addressing a ho-hum diversion rate, council’s environment committee on Tuesday held a question-and-answer session with staff about recycling and green bins.

The city is still having trouble helping people conquer their fear of the “yuck factor” in separating gooey organics from dry garbage, according to Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works and environmental services.

Allowing people to use plastic bags, instead of only paper products, has been billed as one possible solution to increase the usage rate, but the city is still duking it out with Orgaworld over the 20-year green bin contract signed in 2008.

The legal tussle between the city and Orgaworld is over leaf and yard waste, but it’s getting in the way of other potential initiatives, such as using plastic bags.

“It boggles the mind that with an arbitrator ruling that essentially said the city was in the right that we’d be still here years later,” said Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of the environment committee.

“I’ll be blunt. It sucks.”

In 2014, the city’s auditor general exposed the poor planning leading up to the green bin contract. Taxpayers have been shelling out more money than necessary to process residential organics.

About 51 per cent of residents are using green bins for organic waste.

Chernushenko accepts that more people might find it easier to use the green bin if plastic bags were allowed, but he doesn’t believe it’s the only answer to improving usage rates.

'Yuck factor' still hindering Ottawa's green bin efforts

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The city is expected to bring in a new strategy to increase recycling among residents to council early in 2018.

The city is expected to bring in a new strategy to increase recycling among residents to council early in 2018. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

Details of new strategy to boost organics recycling coming to council early next year

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

Facing stagnant participation rates by residents put off by the "yuck factor" of dumping kitchen scraps in their green bins, the City of Ottawa is in talks with the company that handles household organic waste to look for ways to boost uptake in the expensive recycling program.

"We have a very productive relationship with Orgaworld and we have been talking about solutions," said Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works. "That's something we hope to have an answer for early next year."

Wylie made the comments following a wide-ranging discussion at Tuesday's environment committee about waste diversion.

It was the committee's first deep dive into the subject during this term of council, a discussion prompted by a scathing report from Waste Watch Ottawa that called out the city for its poor diversion rate.

Ottawa lagging on waste diversion, group says

In 2016 Ottawa's diversion rate was 44 per cent, one of the lowest in the province. Only about half of eligible households used the green bin last year, and that's costing taxpayers money

Under the city's 20-year contract with Orgaworld, the city pays to process a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of organic waste. But the city has never reached that tonnage since the green bin program began in 2010.

In 2016, Ottawa sent 71,000 tonnes to Orgaworld's composting facility, costing taxpayers about $1 million in unused capacity.

'Yuck factor' still an issue

Councillors and staff both agreed that the "yuck factor" of throwing kitchen scraps into the green bin has likely held back many residents from participating in the organics recycling program. In the summer, for example, hot weather can lead to maggots in the bin, as well as unpleasant odours.

The city has spent $350,000 this year on education and outreach to encourage recycling.

"You can always do more education," Wylie said. "But at some point you've got to switch up the program and that's what we're going hopefully to be tabling in Q1 2018 ... a strategy to increase participation using the existing programs we have."

Giving residents the ability to put their organic waste in plastic bags before placing it in the green bin could increase diversion.

Coun. David Chernushenko said plastic bags aren't necessary in the green bin, "but it certainly makes it easier for more people."

However plastic bags currently aren't allowed under the Orgaworld contract, a detail that would have to be renegotiated. Legal disputes around the contract have so far prevented full-blown contract discussions.

As well, new provincial rules calling on producers to pay the costs of waste disposal and recycling — details of which are expected by the end of the year — will also affect the city's updated recycling strategy.