Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hold your nose

I have spent a few days pondering the options on for a city-wide recycling program (SP June 25/10).

Option one, being the status quo means we have free choice as to whether or not we recycle. I do recycle and I like having a choice. But it is not really an option because, politically, council must be seen to be doing something more.

Option two, which is a subsidy to those who use the private service, costs about $1.75 per household. I could support this because it still allows for choice and rewards people for doing the right thing. It also supports the entrepreneurs who initated the program. But I don't think it will fly as it is not a sufficient sacrifice to the political deity.

Option three, which is expanding the the existing system to include plastics and glass, will cost about $3.00 a month per household. But again this allows for choice and I have a feeling that choice is not an option.

Lastly, option four, being a full curbside recycling program, will cost $7 to $11 per household and we have no choice. This will in all likelihood appeal to the decision makers and they alone have the right to make choices for us. We have created a society that robs us of of the right to choose anything, with the exception of the people making our choices. Everything must be mandated and legislated. I expect to encourage us to participate we will be charged for every bag of refuse put into the city collection bins over, and above the charges to recycle.

I do not expect that we will all simply see a surcharge on our tax bills and that each and every household will pay an equal amount. The estimated $7-11 charge for the "average" household of . . .blah, blah . . . and those with higher assessments will bear the brunt of the taxation.

You would think the savings from the landfill and the charge per bag of garbage would be sufficient to cover the cost. It won't as the city will be required to hire the 'recycle/garbage police' and rather than using private sector services we will have unionized labour doing the jobs.

What saddens me is that I will lose the good feeling I get when I voluntarily recycle - something I choose to do.

Most of our recycled product is trucked out of province. We don't have the population density to support our own plants. We'll just keep on truckin' and keep on paying.

Would it be out of line to hold a referendum on this issue and lay out the full costs and benefits and let the public decide? I recall the idea of a per bag charge for garbage that was floated prior to the election was deep-sixed. I think the council knew that it wouldn't fly with the public and I expect they won't risk a referendum question on the issue.

I suspect there will be more methane gas emitted from council on this matter than from the landfill.


  1. The problem here Mistress is that if anyone dare speak out against a recycling program the supporter's label them as pariahs and they come off as backwards living hillbillies. The issue of the environment is present enough in people's minds that they take a recycle at any cost approach.

    There are a lot of issues that bear discussion that haven't been addressed. If we are paying for mandatory recycling are business such as the current curbside going to be compensated or put out of business, what about Sarcan and their employees who would surely see a drop in business, and what about all the youth organizations who rely on bottle drives for their support.

    The problem is though, that larger cities have such programs and by that logic most people assume Saskatoon should as well. Also, the information around these programs varies so widely from source to source that it is impossible to determine what a cost will be. We need some concrete facts, but apparently the powers that be wish to take the approach of the global warming advocates and hammer us with fear in hope that we don't question the agenda.

  2. Take the environment out of it and look at it from a pure economic position.

    A new landfill is at least $75 million (according to a 2007 report). We have 15-30 years left on the current one. We currently divert 23% of our residential waste. Curbside would get us to 40% (ish), composting would up that to 70% (ish).

    We would save by deferring the building of a new landfill and by operating costs of the current landfill (less waste in = cost savings). Throw in revenue from selling recyclables and ear-marked provincial funding and the costs come down significantly.

  3. "We have created a society that robs us of of the right to choose anything, with the exception of the people making our choices. Everything must be mandated and legislated. I expect to encourage us to participate we will be charged for every bag of refuse put into the city collection bins over, and above the charges to recycle."

    Dear Mistress where exactly do your responsibilities come into play? Why are you not complaining about garbage collection? It to is mandatory. Maybe I should have the right to dispose of my waste however I please, whether that means burning it or dumping it were ever I like. Why don't I have that right? Not recycling ultimately means more non renewable resources will be consumed, which will eventually impact future generations.

    As for Anon

    "The issue of the environment is present enough in people's minds that they take a recycle at any cost approach"

    The problem here is that you fail to admit that environmental preservation has monetary value. A functional ecosystem is integral to our existence. I mean why else do we have environmental laws in place. Should we just accept pollution and waste as a price of progress or should we accept the cost of preservation and conservation as necessary for a sustainable future?

  4. Sean what recyclables will we have to sell and where is the money tree from which the provincial government gets its revenue?

    James, I agree with garbage collection because the lack of it would pose serious health problems to the community. I also recycle and I like the feel good from doing it.

    Perhaps we should just ban the use of certain products in the province. No plastic bags or containers would go a long way in preserving the environment. Let's start using re-useable glass bottles for our milk and juice products, paper bags, etc. Only allow for biodegradable soaps and cleaning products.

    The point I make is choice. By example, many of today's retailers charge for a bag. Not surprisingly many shoppers are now starting to bring their own bags with them. Their choice and many are making the right one.

  5. James,

    You are taking what I said earlier and twisting it. My point, if you read it again, was that by simply attaching the environmental tag to an issue you rile the masses to a point where the 'at any cost' mentality comes across.

    I agree with you that environmental preservations has monetary value in it, I agree that a functional ecosystem is requisite for our existence. You are proving my exact point though, you are one of the people who jump in and question and demean anyone who dares question an 'environmental' program.

    You propose the following question:

    "Should we just accept pollution and waste as a price of progress or should we accept the cost of preservation and conservation as necessary for a sustainable future?"

    Are you saying this is an either or dilemma. We can either throw all caution out the window and deregulate everything and watch the environment go to hell, OR we can implement ever single idea that is brought up regardless of feasibility or cost. Is that what you are proposing James? Are you saying now that if we say no to even one program (say banning all cars on the road) we may as well deregulate everything? Really smart thinking James.

    I believe recycling to be important and like the majority of citizens I think I do an admiral job of it. I recycle all bottles, reuse cloth bags at the stores, recycle all newspapers and other papers through my house, and am careful to reduce the amount of energy I use. My point is simply that we need to be able to evaluate programs and ideas in a sensible manner without zealots (aka James) screaming that anyone who dares question an environmental program is a bad person.

    This is exactly what I meant when I said that by attaching the words environment to anything and automatically you societally cannot oppose it.


    Sean, you have posted on here a few times regarding these supposed numbers. Why can't anyone wondering about this program seem to get a straight answer on what this will end up costing?

    There are people who are seeing the taxes skyrocket up on yearly basis right now, and some who have the added benefit of being forced to install new pipes by the City, the question can legitimately be asked how much this will end up costing a household?

    Is it $10 a month ($120 a year across the board), is it going to be more for higher income neighborhoods? Is the prices we are being quoted likely to be the price we expect to pay on a yearly basis? How are the employees at Sarcan, people running the private recycling businesses now, and organizations that rely on bottle drives going to be compensated or dealt with?

    Again, all I want is to know some facts about this situation cause I'm sick of anytime some issue concerning the environment comes up people starting screaming that we must move forward at it regardless of what it will cost.

  6. Glass, Paper, Aluminum, and plastics. Other western cities make between 1 and 4 million per year in revenue from recyclables.

    The MMRP is the provincial program coming down the line, and supposedly that revenue will come from the producers of packaging.

    I couldn't agree more on starting to use reuseable packaging - but that isn't a civic responsibility. It is a civic responsibility to deal with waste and to minimize it where possible.

    Choice to recycle or not has resulted in only 23% being diverted from the landfill, obviously it doesn't work.

    Now, if you want to discuss moving garbage collection to a by-weight charge on a utility bill - I'm game. That would force people to make a choice to either reduce their garbage or pay for disposing of it. Of course you need to ensure that the ability to reduce your waste if you choose to do so is there as well....

  7. Anon 12:29

    I agree, the numbers have not been well published. I've written extensively on that topic and how the City has lacked in providing such information as of late.

    Personally, I've always tried to be diligent to discuss costs the cost/benefits of any recycling program. Recycling isn't free. There are upfront capital costs and long-term operating costs. However, there are also long-term cost savings.

    Here is a breakdown of the costs and cost savings based on readily available information:


  8. Sean,

    I appreciate the 23% is way too low for our society. However what is the expectations honestly for a mandatory program? I understand how much waste could be diverted but how much realistically will by a mandatory program?

    The biggest hurdle I've seen is lack of education (ie. people unaware they can recycle milk cartons, electronic equipment, juice boxes). The first step is to educate people in Saskatoon who don't have a lot of concern for the issue. People need to start recycling all paper and cardboard products (including empty cereal boxes for example or christmas wrappings/bozes) rather than put them in the garbage. Instituting a mandatory program will not magically convert all 85,000 households to such a practice and to think so is foolish. The first step is education.

    People who in 2010 throw a pop tin the garbage can will not suddenly have an epiphany and begin recycling everything they have in their homes because there is a box in which to do so delivered to their neighborhood.

  9. agreed. Regardless of whatever program is adopted education is the lynch-pin.

    That being said, this isn't rocket science and we are not re-inventing the wheel. Many Canadian cities (both larger and smaller) are already achieving 50-60% diversion and are aiming for upwards of 70-90%.

    A curbside program would get us to about 40-45%, expanding that to apartments/condos will up it further, and a composting program would put us over 60% (70% plus according to the City's own documents).

  10. And you propose through that link that we can expect to achieve these results while seeing only a $3.20 per month or in expanded under $40.00 added onto our property taxes each year?

  11. That was a rough calculation. I'm always open to someone picking apart my reasoning.

  12. The city has succeeded in mixing multiple topics while calling it all recycling and I see that trend has followed through this thread.

    Waste Diversion:
    currently low cost Saskatoon 23%
    high cost Ontario as a province 22%

    You can get your 50% diversion rates depending on what you decide to measure. In fact I can show that Saskatoon is already there. Beware of comparing our 23% with other municipalities 50% or 70%. You have to make sure that you are using exactly the same criteria for what you are measuring (and that is not being done.)

    Is not addressed by the recycling options that have been presented to us. If it's a problem, it's not one that will be fixed by any decisions made in this process.

    It does make the waste diversion numbers look worse if you include all of the organics.

    Actual Recycling:

    (Higher value recyclables)
    We kick butt when it comes to Aluminum (pop cans). SARCAN pulls in 95% of the recyclable material. Ontario is at 45%.

    Paper Fibre Ontario recycles about 90% and Saskatoon is at about 70%. However it cost Ontario 30 times as much per tonne to do that. Just give all the mini-Mistresses out there more than 5 depot locations around the city (more choice - Option 3) and Saskatoon will get close to that 90% without a big increase in costs.

    Low value reyclables:

    (None of these bring in much in the way of offsetting revenue. They are net money losers. The more of these you collect the more money you lose.)

    We recycle more glass. Ontario recycles more steel and tin. Plastics is about the same.

    Our depot system is WAY more cost effective.

    By the way, the city's cost estimates and expected tonnage collected are (how do you say 'misleading' without being insulting?) chosen artfully.

  13. As I posted on Sean Shaw's blog. http://www.blog.seanshaw.ca/

    "As a resident of the Sutherland area, residing in the Stonebridge Boardwalk community, I am also grateful that a city councilor is supportive of this idea. I recently read a blog about the programs in place in some European countries that help reduce garbage as well as promote recycling. Some European countries charge for curbside garbage removal, by bag most likely, but do not charge for curbside recycling. This forces people, who wish to save money on curbside garbage removal, to go through what they plan to throw out and recycle as much as they can. My mother in Regina has neighbors across the street, a family of 3, who have nearly five times the amount of garbage that she does, with 5 people living in her household. I would think that making recycling free and charging an extra fee for overloaded garbage, more than can fit in one of the new city of Regina provided garbage bins would really promote recycling.

    I don’t recycle everything I could myself, I find myself throwing out batteries and old electronics, as well as the odd scraps of paper and some plastics, but it does bother me to see the amount of garbage my parents, my siblings, and I would throw out during a major house cleaning, renovation, or moving, which is something that might happen every two or three years, tossed on a curb every week."

  14. I understand you are intentionally sidestepping the questions, as I have raised it several times.... but...

    What happens to the private companies that are currently filling this need? Will they be bought out of their contracts or compensated? What about homeowners who are locked into a contract with a private company and additionally required to join the city program?

    What about Sarcan and the employment it creates?

    What about organizations that rely on bottle drives for fundraising (in particular minor sports teams, cubs/scouts/girl guides, school classes for trips and grads)?

    Where is the this considered?

    I find it troubling that no one seems concerned that some entrepreneurs have taken a smart idea (recycling) and found a need in the market and filled it, now with talk of the City implementing it no one has mentioned how their company will effectively be ordered out of business after years of hard work building it to what it currently is.

  15. SARCAN will be fine. Cosmo could be in trouble. Option 4 mandatory curbside was with a co-mingled collection was designed specifically to collect beverage containers. We came up with a different solution by attaching deposits on the cans and bottles.

    People aren't just going to give their beverage containers to the city and give up the return of their deposits. They'll still take them to SARCAN. However, without the aluminum the city's mandatory curbside will not defray the costs through revenue to the same extent as is done in Ontario and most places in the U.S. It's going to be a lot more expensive here.

    The organization that is in danger will be Cosmopolitan Industries. There's no deposit on paper. Will people really keep donating their paper in a Cosmo bin when they are forced to pay for the mandatory curbside service? They are likely to forego the donation of paper and just use the city service.

    There is a good chance that other workers (large national or multi-national companies or civic employees) will wind up doing the green jobs that are now being perfomed by the adults with intellectual disablities at Cosmo.

  16. and to the young entrepreneurs who have founded their curbside recycling business and built up a solid client base and are beginning to see the fruits of the labour finally?

    are they just now going to be told to get lost?

  17. your quote of 22% for Ontario is for total diversion. The 23% for Saskatoon is residential diversion. Saskatoon's total diversion is much less that 23% (I believe it was 10% in 2006). So be careful not to mix your numbers ;)


    SARCAN/COSMO/SCR have all be approached by the city to work out a system that benefits all - not that they have all agreed to sit at the same table up until now....


    Funny thing about organics is that their collection has been fast tracked here in Saskatoon. In the fall the City will put an RFP out for a $7.5 million organics facility. Organics collection was included on the informational flyer that went out last weekend. A collection system is also outlined in the 2007 Waste and Recycling Report.

    All of this suggests that the City is moving ahead with some sort of organics collection program. It just doesn't have the same amount of opposition from some on Council that recycling has...

  18. That's my point exactly. Diversion is a slippery slope, what exactly are we comparing?

    Diversion is an added benefit of a well designed recycling program. If you make diversion the main goal then you are willing to make decisions about recycling that ignore marginal costs just to get the diversion numbers up.

  19. Wow, reading all the banter back and forth here has been eye opening for sure. I have to agree with the "Anon" about those fear mongering environmentalists and yet somehow I agree with Sean S when he talks about needing an incentive for people to "do the right thing" so to speak.

    We will never have a civilized discussion on this in the public because the vast majority of the public couldn't give a SH*T about recycling. If they truly did they would be doing it already. Therefore I can only assume that it is the minority that is pushing for these changes. And when a minority makes the rules at some point you have a rebellion (Can anyone say APARTHEID!)

    For those who say they would recycle more if it was easier is a crock in my books either you believe in it and do or you don't really care and just do it to look good to your neighbors and friends.

    Although I do admit convenience can add to the percentage it won't solve the recycling problem if you believe there is a problem that is.

    I like the Mistress's suggestion. Mandate a clean environment. Outlaw all those products that aren't being recycled but could be or have alternatives to them. Plastic vs Glass is one. This would mean everyone would be participating and oh if it costs more I can handle it but I doubt the poor could at least we would all be paying something.

    As for charging me again for something I already pay for through my taxes I believe the city needs to be totally open on this subject. They have already moved towards this system with the mini bins at each household. I thought the reason we have civic services being taken out of our taxes is 2 fold 1) eliminate unwanted dumping and 2) take away any costs for those who cannot pay thus making those with a higher assessed property pay for those who can't. Are we going to be abandoning this attitude or will they still find some way to rob the rich and give to the poor.

    I would love to move to a user pay system one that is inclusive without any freebies for this department and other civic services. I would see my property taxes plummet. But if it goes that way we must be given a choice of suppliers. Make all garbage and recycling open to the private sector. This would eliminate a whole department of civil servants. Have private companies operate the disposal sites too. I'm sure they wouldn't be shutting down service at -40 because of so called equipment problems when every day lost means money out of their pocket. But we will never get there.

    My worst fear regarding this whole issue is that just like almost everything else recently the City will be swayed by the vocal minority in the name of "doing the right thing" without regard for the wishes the silent majority. Whom by the way are already speaking loud and clear through their participation or lack there of in recycling.

  20. I work at sarcan and curbside just picks up your beverage containers and sorts them and takes them to the sarcan depot on faithful avenue and after being counted sarcan writes curbside a big cheque i should know i used to count curbsides orders at the north depot till i transfered to the west depot on 22nd street west so ya sarcan will be around for a long time to come.


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