City Council Imposes Garbage limit but no cash for trash

At the previous May 24th sitting of Ottawa City Council, Councillors David Brown and Alan Hubley had a motion successfully passed asking the City of Ottawa to explore other methods of garbage disposal to offset the use of the city’s landfill that is set to run out of space within 15 years.

Brown and Hubley’s motion was an attempt to defer the Environment and Climate Change Committee’s proposed bag tagging program. Although it did not have any provision to strike down the proposed extra tax on garbage policy, the motion gained the support of Council. Some councillors argued that exploratory options should be used concurrently with making residents pay for additional garbage bags at the curb.

At today’s Council meeting, three different options were discussed that try to eschew levying extra costs for trash onto citizens living in homes and townhomes, with the goal of extending the service life of Ottawa’s landfill.

Councillor Clark Kelly introduced a motion that tried to do what Hubley and Brown failed to do: stop the garbage tagging motion from passing.

Kelly’s motion called for consultation with the public on any proposed garbage limits recommended in the city staff report. This has since become a policy objective of Environment and Climate Change Committee Chair Shawn Menard.

Kelly’s motion requested further educational opportunities and materials on waste diversion be made available to Ottawa residents. It also asked to delay the enforcement of garbage limits until 2026.

Kelly spoke to his motion, saying that waste diversion is crucial to educate residents and future generations “not because they are forced to conform to a particular limit or buy tags.” Kelly further pointed out that the tagging policy will be more difficult for a family of eight to follow than a family of two, and as a rural councillor,  wards like his will have to deal disproportionately with any illegal dumping that may result.

The motion was struck down in a 20-4 vote, with councillors against the tagging policy not supporting Kelly’s motion, like Councillors Brown and Hubley.

Councillor Sean Devine introduced two-tagged garbage items (two trash cans or bags) every two weeks policy, which he spoke to at length, saying it had the support of his ward and was a reasonable limit. Devine’s motion was close to a carbon copy of the originally proposed motion from the Environment and Climate Change Committee.

Councillors David Brown and Marty Carr brought forward a motion to allow three garbage items for residents every two weeks, to be implemented no later than the second quarter of 2024.

The Brown-Carr motion also called for leniency on agricultural properties for their unavoidable waste so long as they continue to divert other trash. It also called for multi-residential spaces with curbside trash pickup to be limited, although this would be challenging to regulate. Brown’s motion likewise asked for leniency with multi-generational households and larger families who create more waste.

Councillor Ariel Troster spoke in support of both motions but said Ottawa residents’ behaviours need to change regarding trash disposal. Troster stated that policies can change behaviours. She argued that leniency should not be given to larger families.

Councillor Shawn Menard echoed this line. He argued that much of what ends up in city landfills should not be there in the first place.

Councillor Kelly spoke against both of these motions noting that it’s only been a few weeks since staff recommended trash limits, and now Council believes that there are only two options; both putting limits on trash. He further stated that the limits proposed in both motions are only supported because tagging is unpopular across the city. Kelly noted that by limiting themselves to two strategies, Council is taking away the opportunity to explore other policy options.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe supported the Brown-Carr motion; Sean Devine’s motion was then stuck down within a 10-14 vote. The Brown-Carr motion passed with a high threshold of support at 22, including a nod of approval from the mayor.

Ottawa will have a garbage limit in place at a date yet to be announced. The good news is that residents will not pay extra to put their trash out.