Ottawa considering bag tag program

The city of Ottawa is looking at moving to a pay-as-you-throw model for household waste.

The plan has been developed in an attempt to extend the life of the city’s Trail Road landfill. At the moment it is expected to be full in 13 to 15 years.

A new landfill or alternative technology, such as a waste-to-energy transfer facility, would take up to 15 years to establish and cost $300 to $450 million. This policy is part of a multi-pronged approach to extend the life of the landfill and defer the need for a costly new residual waste management solution.

The new program would help the city meet targets set out in the Province’s Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement, which calls for a 70-percent reduction and recovery of food and organic waste from landfill by the end of 2023.

Pay-as-you throw models are used by 132 other municipalities in Ontario, all of which have seen increased waste diversion and reduced tonnage to their landfills. The proposed policy is estimated to reduce garbage tonnage by up to 19% per capita in year one and up to 28% in year five, and increase the curbside waste diversion rate by up to six percent.

If city council approves the plan, households receiving curbside garbage collection could set out 55 garbage items each year at no additional cost, beginning in in the second half of 2024.  

Households would be given 55 tags per year as a part of their Solid Waste User Fee, included on their tax bill. All garbage items placed at the curb would need a tag to be picked up. Extra tags would be available for $3 each.

A garbage item could be a garbage bag, container or bulky item. Households can put several smaller bags in containers up to 140 litres with no need to purchase additional bags or tags.  

There would continue to be no limit to how much residents can set out through curbside recycling and green bins. 

The city said the recommendation of 55 tags per year is in line with the best practice of setting garbage item limits at or below what the average household sets out. On average, Ottawa garbage set-outs include two garbage items every other week, and 74% of garbage set-outs include two items or fewer every other week, which would put them within the allotted amount of 55 tags per year.

To support households with unavoidable medical waste, the City would expand its special considerations program – which allows eligible residents to set out diapers and incontinence products for collection on off weeks – to accept non-hazardous medical waste. This would not count toward a household’s annual allotment of tags.