LETHBRDGE: Members of city council's environment committee are at odds over whether a new curbside recycling program can really help the environment. Staff brought a presentation to City Hall Thursday explaining what new curbside, organic and industrial/commercial recycling options could look like, but council members disagreed over which options offer most value for taxpayer money.
"Is our desire to actually do the right thing for the environment, because this [curbside recycling] doesn't seem to be it," said committee chair Ald. Jeff Carlson during debate.
His comments came after city staff revealed some telling statistics about the city's waste. A full 58 per cent of garbage sent to landfill is institutional, commercial and industrial waste - stuff the average homeowner has nothing to do with. Another 19 per cent is construction and demolition waste. That means just 23 per cent of the city's garbage comes from residents. Carlson wondered if money would be better spent on improving recycling plans for the bulk of city waste, rather than starting a potentially expensive curbside program for residential waste.
Ald. Bridget Mearns strongly disagreed with him, backing her arguments with still more statistics from the presentation. Curbside recycling programs are known to double the amount of resident participation, because more people can access that option versus drop-off depots that require a car to get to.
That's no small number, considering a 2006 Statistics Canada report that found "Alberta has the largest amount of per capita waste disposed in Canada with each Albertan sending more than one tonne of waste for disposal" that year. In Lethbridge, the rate of waste disposal each year is enough "to fill the ENMAX Centre 10 times (165,000 tonnes)" as mentioned in a City backgrounder about landfill use. Waste management staff estimate they typically divert only 15 per cent of that garbage from landfill to recycling. At the same time, they calculate 70 to 80 per cent of the total amount of waste that eventually goes into the dump each year is actually recyclable.
It's estimated that at this rate, Lethbridge residents will use all the space in its current landfill in just 12 years. The city is already planning a landfill expansion that could more than double the dump's size - before taxpayers have even had the chance to pay for the first landfill.
The city bought the current dump property for about $12 million dollars, which appears as a monthly $3.50 fee to homeowners every month, regardless of how much or how little garbage they send to it. Meanwhile, city staff estimated it could cost homeowners about $13 total a month for bi-weekly garbage pick-up and curbside recycling, though these are early numbers.
Environment committee members said Thursday they will talk more among themselves and hold another meeting before they take the recycling options to council. As of Friday afternoon, they had yet to set the date of their next meeting.