City Council votes on waste and organics funding, with curbside organics program to launch in 2023
As part of 25 targets included in the City’s Strategic Plan the waste diversion target (70% diversion by 2023) will measure success in environmental stewardship through increasing the percentage of waste that is recycled, reused, or composted.
How are we doing?
In 2017, 23% of the waste handled by the City was diverted from disposal through programs such as the curbside and multi-unit residential recycling programs, the subscription food, yard and garden waste collection program, recycling and compost depots and Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) drop-off events.
|Diversion Rate Target (%)||15.0||19.6||17.3||18.4||22.7||22.5||21.0||21.8||22.8||70|
Saskatoon’s diversion rate is second lowest when benchmarked against other Canadian cities.
How Will We Get There? The Waste Diversion Plan
In order to begin moving toward the waste diversion target of 70% by 2023, work has begun on the development of a Waste Diversion Plan which will provide a long-term roadmap for Saskatoon’s waste management programs and recommend policies and initiatives.
The development of the strategy involves three main phases:
Phase 1: Considerations - What is possible?
Waste Characterization - What's in the garbage?
77% of waste sampled in residential black carts could be diverted from the landfill if new programs for diversion are made available. In particular, 58% could be diverted by expanding organics programs and 61% of waste sampled in multi-unit residential waste containers could be composted (40%) or recycled.
According to representative sampling, 56% of the waste generated by Industrial, Commercial and Institutional organizations could be composted or recycled.
80% of waste sampled from loads self-hauled to the City Landfill could be diverted for composting or recycling. Up to 94% of construction and demolition waste currently being delivered to landfills in the Saskatoon region could be diverted at a recovery park at the Saskatoon Waste Management Centre.
Waste Opportunities Report
The Waste Opportunities Report provides a potential roadmap for Saskatoon’s waste management programs and recommends a schedule of policies and initiatives that Council could adopt to achieve full implementation. Shortlisted items include modifying the approach to financing solid waste (waste as a utility); changes to the Waste Bylaw; modifying collection frequency; disposal ban(s); a material recycling facility at the landfill; city-wide organics program for residents; enhanced data management systems; and ongoing education and awareness.
Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) Strategy
There are approximately 6,276 ICI properties in Saskatoon which consist mainly of food, automotive, retail, and personal care services. The ICI locations are spread throughout the city and employ approximately 83,280 people on full time, part time and seasonal basis. Industrial, commercial, and institutional waste makes up 66% of total regional waste in Saskatoon. It is estimated that 22% of ICI waste is recyclable and 28% is organic waste.
Approximately 32% of total regional waste is organic. Keeping organic waste out of the landfill reduces the strain on garbage collection systems and increases the lifespan of landfills. It avoids the creation of harmful greenhouse gases and leachate that occurs when organic matter breaks down in landfills.
Phase 2: Community Engagement - What is Supported?
Many of the topics within the waste diversion plan will require significant community conversations and engagement. Engagement activities at this stage could include the establishment of numerous stakeholder-focused working groups and include activities such as a series of workshops/forums, surveying and on- and offline discussions. The goal of waste diversion engagement is to help residents and businesses understand waste diversion challenges and provide input into prioritizing potential solutions. The output from waste diversion engagement will be a comprehensive report which outlines Saskatoon’s waste diversion options for Council’s future consideration. Public outreach and education will continue through the design phase if City Council chooses to advance toward implementation.
Interested in seeing the latest updates on the City of Saskatoon's public engagement activities on Waste Diversion?
- Curbside Residents, visit: www.saskatoon.ca/yxetalkstrash-curbside
- Multi-Unit Residents and Property Managers, visit: www.saskatoon.ca/yxetalkstrash-multiunit
- Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) engagement will begin in Winter 2019
Phase 3: Recommendations & Decision Making - What is Justified?
Based on input from the Waste Diversion Engagement Report, and input from project stakeholders and community engagement, the City of Saskatoon will develop a comprehensive Waste Diversion Plan and make recommendations for Council’s consideration.
Council Update (June 2018)
Council Update (September 2018)
On September 24, a series of reports were presented to City Council. Together they addressed the environmental and financial sustainability of waste management in Saskatoon and help achieve the City’s goal of 70% waste diversion by 2023. The three reports are a follow-up to the June 25 report, Recommended Changes to Waste Management in Saskatoon, where City Council directed Administration to proceed with the development of a new Pay-As-You-Throw (PAYT) waste utility and mandatory city-wide organics program for curbside single-family homes.
Recommends that the new service level for all curbside households be year-round bi-weekly collection of garbage and organics, with no changes to recycling. It is also recommended that these new services be funded as a utility rather than through property taxes.
Ability-to-Pay Considerations for an Expanded Curbside Waste Utility
Includes considerations to ensure the program is affordable to residents of Saskatoon and address concerns around changing program funding from mill rate (subsidized by the commercial sector) to a utility. The new programs are expected to stay well within affordability thresholds for a range of income levels.
Unified Waste Utility - Utility Rate Setting Philosophy
Presents City Council with options for long-term financial rate setting, should they approve the recommendation to implement the new programs as a utility.
While the Administration recommends the most cost-effective level of service with a rate structure that incentivizes waste diversion, City Council may select a different or any combination of service levels or rate structures. Either scenario will require the Administration to report back to City Council for final approval on service levels and rates.
Council Update (October 2018)
On October 22, the Administration presented additional information to City Council on the proposed changes to waste management for curbside single-family homes.
In that meeting, City Council approved that:
- a Citywide organics program be implemented for curbside single-family residential households;
- that black and green bins be collected bi-weekly year-round, once an organics program is launched;
- and that compost depots continue to operate at the current level of service.
The following decisions were deferred until the November 19 City Council Meeting:
- Pay-As-You-Throw waste utility
- Organics as a utility
- Capital funding borrowing plan
- Ability to pay report recommendation
- Rate Setting philosophy recommendations
The following items were withdrawn:
- That 2019 be the final season for the Green Cart subscription program and that a deadline of April 15, 2019, be implemented for new subscriptions.
- The June 24 council deferment of recommendation for $8.4M in borrowing.
Review the Council Report:
The purpose of this report is to provide additional information pertaining to three reports (Waste Management Levels of Service – Curbside Organics and Pay as You Throw Waste Utility; Ability-to-Pay Considerations for an Expanded Curbside Waste Utility; and Unified Waste Utility – Utility Rate Setting Philosophy) that were presented to City Council on September 24, 2018, regarding single family residential waste collection and disposal and a potential comprehensive curbside organics program in Saskatoon.
Council Update (November 2018)
On November 19, the Administration will present a Waste and Organics report to City Council, providing additional information on contamination risks, funding model options, and communications plans for the contemplated organics and waste program changes.
Review the Council Report and attachments:
- Additional Information for Waste and Organics
- Attachment #1: Funding Models and Contamination Risk
- Attachment #2: Curbside Waste Redesign Funding Options (Infographic)
The full agenda for the November 19 City Council meeting can be found here.
Council Update (December 2018)
Council Update (January 2019)
City Council, at its Regular Business Meeting held on January 28, 2019, considered the following items and resolved as noted.
Review the council report and attachment:
City Council resolved:
- That Administration bring back options for a multiyear phase-in of organics and waste funding. Options could include, but need not be limited to, mid-year program implementation and reallocation of dollars to best match program start dates. Please include at least one option that includes an annual mill rate target of one percent or less.
- That the Administration report back on consideration for current composters to opt out.
- That the Administration report back on a prohibition on organics from the landfill and black bins.
- That the Administration report back on the expansion of the current organics program with a prohibition of yard waste in the black bins.
- That Administration report back on the landfill costs associated with any delay or phased in approach.
- That Administration report back on how any delayed or phased in approach impact Council’s goal of 70% landfill diversion by 2023.
- That the report be forwarded to the Saskatoon Environmental Advisory Committee for feedback.
Frequently Asked Questions
City-Wide Organics Program
A mandatory, co-mingled green cart for year-round collection of food and yard waste provides the highest waste diversion potential (estimated at 26,000 tonnes). It is anticipated that resident use of the cart will have high adoption, as it is easy to use (no separation of food and yard waste) and understand. It also provides adequate capacity for all property types.
What do you mean by 'organics'?
The term 'organics' is used to describe materials that breakdown naturally through decomposition and can be made into compost, such as food and yard waste. Food does not have to be grown organically in order to be consider an organic waste material.
Why is the City of Saskatoon looking at expanding its organics programs and policies to reduce the amount of food and yard waste going to the landfill?
When organic materials (food and yard waste) end up in the landfill, they are mixed with garbage and quickly buried in an airless environment. But because organics need air to decompose properly, they do not turn into soil or compost. Instead, they release methane gas and create garbage fluids, called leachate. Methane is a greenhouse gas much more potent than carbon dioxide and leachate needs to be managed under strict environmental regulations. Although some of the methane is captured as landfill gas and converted into energy, the system at our landfill only captures approx. 70% of the methane produced by 1/3 of the landfill, while the remainder is released into our atmosphere.
By placing items that are not garbage into the landfill, we fill it up unnecessarily. A new landfill would be very expensive to build and operate, challenging to locate, and would have a large environmental impact. To prevent the need for a new landfill, we all need to do our part to put waste in the right place.
Organic material, when processed properly, can add value by creating compost and/or energy. Valuable resources such as organics do not belong in the landfill.
How much organic material is currently being landfilled?
32% of Saskatoon’s total landfilled waste is organics (food and yard waste); this includes, 36,600 tonnes from residential sources and 41,700 tonnes from Industrial, Institutional, or Commercial Sources.
58% of single-family residential garbage consists of organics (food and yard waste), while multi-unit residential garbage contains 40% organics, and businesses (Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional) garbage contains 27%.
What does an organics program look like? How could it be implemented?
No decisions have been made. The City is exploring numerous options for the collection and processing of food and yard waste, based on feasibility, effectiveness, and best practices from other jurisdictions.
The options currently being considered for collections include considerations such as cart size and collection frequency (i.e. weekly or bi-weekly).
The options currently being considered for processing include:
- Passively aerated and turned composting;
- Aerated composting; or
- Anaerobic digestion and thermal systems.
Depending on the processing option selected, materials may need to be separated by either the source (i.e. by residents, businesses) or by the processor.
A full description and analysis is provided in the Organics Opportunities Report – Attachment 4 – Collections and Processing Options.
How do residents feel about an organics program?
According to preliminary results from the Waste and Recycling survey completed by Insightrix in July 2017, 79% of residents somewhat or strongly support a city-wide food and yard waste collection for all households.
What other municipalities have organics programs?
Organics programs exist in most cities across Canada. Saskatoon is one of only two cities with no city-wide curbside collection program for yard waste and one of only five without a food waste collection program (out of 30 Canadian cities with populations over 150,000).
Saskatoon and Regina are the only cities without a city-wide curbside yard waste collection program. Saskatoon, Regina, London, Winnipeg, and Quebec City do not have a city-wide curbside food waste collection program.
Saskatoon is the only city in Canada with a subscription program for food and yard waste.
What if we just started with an organics pilot program?
Many municipalities proceed with a pilot in advance of implementing a city-wide Curbside Organics Program. For instance, Calgary, Red Deer, and Region of Waterloo are three recent programs that conducted pilots in advance of a city-wide program.
A pilot, or phased approach, could help build support for the program as it would allow time for residents to get used to the idea if coupled with a communications program. Additionally, a pilot would help build confidence in an organics business plan, program options, and feasibility. Benefits of a pilot allow the City to test operating assumptions (such as route capacity); better understand attitudes/ behaviours; and test different cart options and technology. The major drawback of a pilot is that it’s time and resource intensive, although funding options may be available to offset those costs.
Organics Opportunities Report – Attachment 5 provides a discussion on the necessity of a pilot project in Saskatoon.
Don't we have a subscription-based Green Cart Program? Isn't that enough?
The Green Cart Program has grown significantly since 2015 and subscribers now constitute 12% of single-family households. However, it is financially unsustainable as currently designed and is not likely to divert more than 5,000 tonnes of the residential sectors’ 36,600 tonnes in the next 10 years.
The current subscription Green Cart Program is limited in its ability to achieve meaningful organics diversion from the residential sector compared to a city-wide program for the following reasons:
- It is voluntary, with only 12% of single family households currently subscribing, approximately 2,500 tonnes was diverted through this program in 2017.
- The subscription rates do not cover the full costs of operating this program. It becomes extremely difficult to plan operations and expenditures.
- In comparison to a city-wide program, a subscription based program results in planning and operational inefficiencies.
Why don’t you just ban organics from the landfill?
Organics disposal bans are one method for increasing diversion and have been implemented in many places across Canada for both residents and businesses to encourage increased use of existing organics programs (both private and public). Bans are not typically a first step for encouraging residential organic diversion as residents require opportunities to divert their waste (such as a city-wide Green Cart Program) in order to comply. Bans are most effective when used to encourage businesses to use existing organics facilities.
Organics bans are often implemented by a provincial or regional level of government as seen in Metro Vancouver and Nova Scotia, with Ontario and Quebec planning organic bans in the near future. The City of Calgary plans to ban food and yard waste from City landfills by 2019 in conjunction with its new city-wide Green Cart Program; this has required a high level of collaboration between the City and the waste management industry.
City-wide bans of any material can be challenging due to the potential for this material to be taken to other regional landfills not under the direct control of the City, or illegally dumped. In addition, there are administrative, enforcement, and educational implications to be considered in order to enact a successful ban.
Don't we have a landfill gas (methane) collection system at our landfill?
Yes, some of the methane is captured as landfill gas and converted into electricity; however, the system at our landfill only captures a portion of the methane produced from the closed portion of the landfill.
While landfill gas recovery is a method to deal with the organic materials already in landfills, diverting organic materials such as food and yard waste from landfills (using composting technologies) will reduce the production of methane in the first place.
I already home compost. Why isn’t that enough?
Backyard composting is a cost-effective method of reducing waste. Most communities promote home composting, while also providing curbside services to achieve efficient and larger-scale waste diversion. Saskatoon provides home composting support for residents which includes $20 rebates for compost bins as well as the Compost Coach training and education program which includes free workshops, education at trade shows and events, home visits, a compost hotline, online information, videos, and marketing to promote composting. Any city-wide collection program will need to consider the impact it may have on home composters.
According to the Waste and Recycling Survey, 21% of people say they compost their yard waste and 24% say they compost their food waste at home.
I have a company do my yard maintenance. I don’t need/want a green bin.
We hope that by residents having a green cart, they will be able to save money when negotiating their cost for yard maintenance as the yard waste will not have to be hauled away. Additionally, a city-wide organics program will benefit everyone as more types of materials such as meat, bones, dairy, weeds, small twigs will be accepted, not just general yard waste.
Are these programs mandatory? Can I opt out?
On October 22, City Council voted in favour of implementing a city-wide organics program for single-family curbside households with no provisions for opting out. However, based on property configurations, cart removal may be possible if it can be shown that adequate organics capacity is still available. For instance, neighbours of small properties (eg. Townhouses) may choose to share a bin; similarly, secondary suites may choose to share with the primary suite. However, fees will remain the same as the fee structure is based on every unit receiving the service. Any options to the program would be presented and decided should the program proceed.
What are the benefits of compost?
Adding compost to soil in lawns, gardens, and other landscaping improves the ability of the soil to retain moisture, resist erosion, retain nutrients, and optimize fertility for plants to help with drought resistance. Studies have also found that compost can suppress weed growth and the development of diseases. Use of compost in landscaping may also allow for reduced use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which rely on greenhouse gas producing fossil fuels for production.
What about mice? Won't composting cause problems with rodents?
Composting systems can be managed in ways that discourage pests, such as rodents. Many pests are attracted to food scraps and wet yard waste. To reduce pests, keep these materials covered and enclosed. Using a layer of dried leaves, newsprint or cardboard before adding food can make your bin more animal-resistant.
Set the bin out on each collection date and store in a cool, ventilated area. You can reduce bin odours by sprinkling a small amount of vinegar or baking soda into your cart. You could also try letting yard waste dry before placing it in your cart. More tips can be found on the City’s website under yard food waste.
Use a more animal-resistant compost bin, avoid adding foods that attract animals (such as meat, bones, and dairy products), and/or use methods such as trench composting.
What if I already use my garburator / garbage disposal for food scraps?
Garburators/garbage disposals are not effective ways for waste diversion as this process simply displaces the waste by having it go through the wastewater treatment process, which has adverse effects on the system itself. Any materials sent through this system are either screened and landfilled or mixed with biosolids to create a lower-quality soil amendment product than what is possible with direct organics processing through the green cart program.
Where can I find out more information about composting?
What would the compost generated through this program be used for?
Compost from our compost depots has been used to keep Saskatoon parks and community gardens healthy and beautiful. As more compost is generated, more uses and opportunities to sell the material become possible.
Costs & Funding
How will the organics program be funded?
Will residents be charged regardless of whether their cart is picked up or not?
Yes. The charges will be based on a city-wide, curbside program not by the number of collections.
Service Levels & Details
What size will the organics carts be?
Organics cart size has not been confirmed, but will likely be medium (240 L) or large (360 L). The recommendation will consider how often the carts will be collected (eg. Weekly or biweekly) and the estimated amount of organics that each household generates.
Will there be an option to select a different size cart?
Organics cart size has not been confirmed, but will likely be medium (240 L) or large (360 L). Administration will also explore options for offering variable cart sizes as part of the program, as further planning proceeds.
How will the City deal with organic matter freezing to the bottom of the bin?
The City intends to look at different cart designs/specifications which should minimize the risk of organics freezing to the bottom.
What will the collection frequency be?
City Council has adopted bi-weekly service for both garbage and organics.
Will more consideration be made to increased frequency of organics collections in the warmer months?
No consideration has been given at this time, however, City Council may choose to revisit this option in the future.
How/Where will the organics green bin be collected?
Administration is recommending that green carts continue to be collected from the front street which is the same location as the current subscription program. Front street collection increases efficiency, improves collection safety, reduces the amount of damage and high costs associated with back lane maintenance, reduces the congestion associated with carts in back lanes, and reduces the potential for contamination, misuse and illegal dumping. City Council will make their decision in early 2019.
Will the City be providing kitchen catchers and compostable bags for food waste?
Kitchen catchers are anticipated to be provided to residents. Compostable bags may or may not be allowed as this will depend on the selected organics processor.
Will residents be allowed to put food waste in bags prior to placing in the organics cart?
Compostable bags may or may not be allowed as this will depend on the selected organics processor.
I already have a green cart? Will I be able to keep it, or will it be replaced with a new one?
Yes, it is anticipated that existing green carts will continue to be used by residents that already have them.
Will the organics program be mandatory? Can I opt out?
On October 22, City Council voted in favour of implementing a city-wide organics program for single-family curbside households with no provisions for opting out. Administration will consider if there are any specific circumstances where bins could be shared; however, the City wants to ensure all residents have access to the program.
Don’t we have compost facilities we can use?
The current compost depots are located on temporary sites and do not have enough space to accept materials from a city-wide curbside collection program. The depots will remain available for residents to deliver oversized or excess organic material, like branches, that don’t fit into a cart.
If we have a city-wide organics program will the City stop supporting home composting?
No. Promoting home composting will continue to add value to the municipality and community.
Home composting also generates value to the participant. A resident can create up to one yard of compost per year (for free) through home composting. This has a retail value of approximately $150 if the resident makes use of this valuable resource in their own landscaping.
Environment & Waste Diversion
What is the City’s waste diversion goal? How are we doing?
The community set a target of diverting 70% of our waste from the landfill by 2023. This means that 70% of our waste will be reused, recycled or composted. In 2016, 22% of the waste handled by the City was diverted from disposal through programs such as the single- and multi-unit residential recycling programs, the subscription Green Cart food and yard waste collection program, the recycling and compost depots, and the Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) drop-off events.
How does an Organics program fit into the City’s plan on waste diversion?
As outlined in the Waste Diversion Plan, introducing an Organics program is the community’s single biggest opportunity for diversion. Other components such as a Waste Utility and an Industrial, Commercial, and Institution (ICI) waste program will be explored further in the coming months.
How does this support our strategic directions?
This report supports the Strategic Goal of Environmental Leadership including the four-year priority to promote and facilitate city-wide composting and recycling and the long-term strategy to eliminate the need for a new landfill and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tied to City operations. In addition it supports the Waste Diversion Performance Target to divert 70% of waste.
Why is it important that we divert waste?
Our landfill is filling up. Every year we are adding almost 100,000 tonnes of garbage.
Waste diversion directs garbage away from landfills through reuse, recycling, or composting.
A successful waste diversion program is necessary to extend the life of the landfill. A funding increase is needed in order to sustainably fund waste management, including appropriate transfers to the Landfill Replacement Reserve. The costs to close the existing landfill and establish a new landfill are estimated at $26 million and $100 million respectively.
How much waste could we potentially divert with the right programs and policies?
More than 75% could be diverted from the landfill if new programs for diversion are made available.
How much waste can be diverted through home composting and how does that compare to a city-wide collections program?
Backyard composting has not been shown to significantly increase waste diversion rates on a community scale, as most people do not choose to voluntarily participate in home composting (less than 25% in Saskatoon in 2017). Home composting can also be limited in terms of the amounts and types of materials that can be processed, as compared to city-wide organics programs. Even successful home composting programs are commonly partnered with curbside collection programs in other jurisdictions.
How much organic material is currently being landfilled?
32% of Saskatoon’s total landfilled waste is organics (food and yard waste); this includes 36,600 tonnes from residential sources and 41,700 from Industrial, Institutional, or Commercial sources.
Why shouldn’t I throw organics (food and yard waste) in the Landfill? Don’t they break down there?
A recent study shows that 58% of single family residential garbage in Saskatoon consists of organics such as food and yard waste. Keeping organics out of the Landfill helps us save valuable resources, space and tax dollars.
Putting organics in the landfill causes them to break down slowly while releasing methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. When organic material has adequate oxygen in a compost pile, it breaks down faster and produces a usable material for lawns and gardens.
What are the environmental implications of an organics program?
Diverting organic waste from the landfill offers several environmental benefits in terms of land, air, and water quality. Through the use of compost as a soil amendment in gardens or landscapes, nutrients that would normally be locked up in a landfill are recycled into the ecosystem where they are available to plants. Compost added to soils also improves moisture retention properties so rainfall run-off is reduced.
Organic material that is buried in a landfill environment will produce methane which is often released into the atmosphere. Methane is a significant component of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions which contribute to climate change. Diverting 78,000 tonnes of food and yard waste from Saskatoon landfills is estimated to reduce between 85,000 and 120,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents.
Timelines & Communications
When will a curbside organics program be implemented by?
The curbside organics program will launch in 2023. It is not yet known when in 2023 the launch will occur.
How do you plan to communicate this?
A detailed communications plan will be developed in advance of any changes to ensure a successful rollout of the city-wide organics program. The communication goals are to ensure everyone is well educated on the costs, service details, and implementation plan so that nobody is surprised when the new program launches. Tactics could include traditional mass media, utility bill inserts, webpage updates, social media outreach, explainer videos, printed material, public service announcements and various other opportunities.