City aims to increase diversion rate in multi-res buildings
(Written July 29 for Town Crier.)
In an attempt to reverse the flow of apartments turning to private garbage collection, the city has introduced a new waste collection fee for multi-residential buildings.
The new fee system, which kicked in July 1, is supposed to be less complex and cheaper for residential buildings than the old city system that started two years ago.
Since July 1, 2008 when the city launched a waste collection fee based on volume, 375 apartment and condos have chosen to go off the public system and sign up with the private sector instead.
Had the city kept that old fee structure, it would have meant a loss of about $15 million in revenue between this year and the end of 2011.
Gloria Solomon, director of the Preston Group property management company,
took three of her four buildings to the private sector at the beginning of the year.
While fees ranged based on the amount of waste and size of building, the company was paying about $13 per suite a month for city service. In one case, this meant $40-45,000 a year for waste and recycling pick-up for a 307-unit building.
The cost for the same complex with a private waste and recycling service is $5.35 per suite a month or about $19,709 a year.
Even though the city has now lowered its rates, it won’t be enough of an incentive to bring her East York buildings at 2 Secord and 90 Eastdale avenues back to city-run collection, Solomon says.
She’s heard the new city fee converts into about a 30-percent reduction compared to the original collection fee, but in some cases, Solomon is paying 70-percent less with the private sector.
Solomon said she kept 25 St. Denis Dr. in Flemingdon Park with the city service. Residents and staff are such avid recyclers the city waste collection costs are about $5 per unit each month. This rate is comparable to the private system, she says.
With the city system, buildings are charged for waste pick-up based on volume, but that fee includes several free services.
That’s one benefit of using the city system, explains Vince Sferrazza, with solid waste management.
“We only charge for garbage collection,” he said. “We give you (free) electronic, bulk collection, recycling, organic waste and communication materials. With the private sector, you pay different rates for everything. “We believe (the new fee) will slow down the buildings opting out of the city system,” said Sferrazza, adding buildings that have opted out may now consider going back to the city service.
Doug King, a board member with the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario, agrees the new city fee is better than the old system.
“It will be simpler and less expensive,” he said July 20. “It was a political response because they were losing their customer base.”
He also believes it will likely entice opt-outs to come back.
“The (city) is more competitive overall but for a company that doesn’t give a damn about diverting waste and wants to pitch everything in the garbage it’s probably cheaper to dump everything in one bin with a private hauler,” he said.
Whether a residential building owner or condo board works with the city or private sector, certain items such as cans, bottles and newspapers must be recycled as mandated by provincial legislation.
The city’s rolling out green bin service in all apartments and condos through the end of 2011 and once it is in a building, participation is mandatory as part of waste pick-up. The private sector’s not required to offer organic waste as part of its collection.
Brad Butt, president of the Greater Toronto Apartment Association, is also pleased the city’s changing its fees. “We will wait and see if the new program is more transparent. Only time will tell if the net cost will decrease for the typical apartment,” he said.
One way to decrease costs is to throw out less garbage and take advantage of the diversion programs offered at no extra cost.
“In the city’s defence, it has done a good job of educating property managers so residents can recycle,” Butt said. “But when (the city) sets the recycling goals the same as single family homes and is setting the billing system the same, there is unfairness.”
There are many reasons why it’s harder for multi-residential buildings to achieve the same diversion results, said Butt. For instance, the convenience of throwing garbage down a chute in a building rather than walking recycling down to ground floor.
In the end, the city’s goal is to get all households diverting 70 percent of waste from landfill. Currently, single family homes divert 60 percent of household waste from landfill while multi-residential properties divert 16