Sunday, April 09, 2006

Garbage Business Smells Sweet

When Baseline Councillor Rick Chiarelli says the city has to pay more attention to trash collection in Ottawa, he knows what he's talking about.

After all, garbage collection is big business around here, and with the pending expansion of the Carp Road landfill site, it's only getting bigger.

"We have to be fair to the business sector," explains the councillor, who supports the proposed expansion and continuation of the Carp Road landfill, whose trademark bulge is quickly becoming a Kanata landmark.

"Because this a legitimate business that we need, and business owners have rights too."

Indeed, it may come as a surprise to some, but the business of dumping in Ottawa is booming. And according to lobby groups it's the private hauling companies – companies like the Tomlinson Group or Waste Management, which runs the Carp Road site – that benefit the most.

Ottawa has four major landfill sites – Carp Road, Trail Road, Navan Road, and Springhill Road. Three are owned and operated by private garbage hauling. Only Trail Road is operated municipally.

"The city's whole theme is 'If Carp closes tomorrow, what are we going to do with all this garbage?'" says John MacMillan, president of West Capital Aviation and one of the minds behind, a local landfill watchdog.

"But the problem right now is that the City of Ottawa gets an artificially low price of $38 per tonne to dump at Carp," continues Mr. MacMillan, who admits his bias – he lives close to the Carp dump and wants to see it closed. "This is a huge disincentive for waste diversion and new technology efforts."

Even the issue of inflated population growth figures – the bane of some local developers hit with thousands of dollars in inflated infrastructure fees – have played into the city's decision to keep dumping at Carp, say observers.

The Centre for Spatial Economics, which produced the data for the city's current official plan, has already released updated projections predicting a smaller 2015 population of 979,000, compared to current official city estimates of over 1.1 million.

Observers like Alex Munter say the city is using these inflated numbers to justify expanding the Carp dump, when in reality no such growth exists.

"The city knows the numbers in its official plan are just plain wrong – but refuses to fix them," says Mr. Munter. "The promoters of an expanded Carp landfill are being handed a free pass by the city's own numbers that inflate Ottawa's projected population by over 120,000 people."

Dumping, or tipping, fees vary wildly from facility to facility, but for comparison's sake, dumping fees at the city's own landfill on Trail Road equate to $73 per tonne across the board. That is, for residential, commercial, and even hazardous waste.

That's almost double the price of what Waste Management charges the city to dump at Carp. And according to Mr. MacMillan, it's not by accident – that same low price, he says, is the only thing keeping Waste Management's Carp dump operation in business.

Waste Management officials declined comment on the matter.

"The low price means the city has no motivation to change, because they're getting a good deal," he says, adding that other cities in Canada, like Halifax, set their landfill dumping rates artificially high (Halifax sits at around $115 per tonne) to promote diversion and renewable technologies like plasma waste conversion. The technology incinerates garbage while creating energy for electricity.

But Coun. Chiarelli says Mr. MacMillan's allegations are nonsense. "These things generally come from people who want to shut down the dump," he says. "Waste Management is a private sector company and the element of city trash that goes to the Carp dump was negotiated on the open market. And prices will vary, depending on a whole range of things.

"No matter which alternative we pick, it's going to cost more," he says. "Traditional incineration costs three times the price, after selling the emissions for power.

"But even if we move at lightning speed, we won't see a full-scale alternative till the other side of five years," he continues. "And that means we need to find a place to put the garbage, unless, of course, people want to keep it at home."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crazy government

4:39 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home