City of Ottawa earned $10M from your paper, plastics in 2016

Recycling programs in Ontario heading for slow overhaul

The City of Ottawa made nearly $10 million from selling what it collected from blue and black boxes in 2016, but still didn't collect enough organics to make its green bin contract a good deal.

The city sent 42,240 tonnes of paper recycling for processing last year. Even though that's lower than in past years, the city actually made more — $6.1 million — because the market value for fibre is high.

Residents are using less fine paper as they read fewer print newspapers and receive fewer bills on paper, but are putting more cardboard in their blue bins as they shop more online, said Marilyn Journeaux, the city's director of solid waste services.

Meanwhile, Ottawans are recycling more tonnes of plastics, glass and aluminum through their blue bins, even though the packaging itself doesn't weigh as much as it used to.

"Things in the blue box are actually getting lighter, so for example a water bottle today is way lighter than a water bottle five years ago," said Journeaux 

In total, the city received $3.6 million from 21,700 tonnes worth of blue bin material in 2016.

Revenues don't quite offset costs

"Put those materials in the blue and black box. We get money for that," urged Journeaux.

Still, the city doesn't quite get enough money back to cover the costs of collecting recyclables curbside, she said.

Another $5 million each year comes Ottawa's way through the Ontario government's provincial stewardship program.

All this is set to change, however, as the province rolls out a new approach to dealing with waste that will see the producers of packaging pay the full costs of recovering it, instead of half.

Journeaux says the city still doesn't have all the details of how that legislation, the Waste-Free Ontario Act, will roll out, but overall it will be good for the city financially.

The new regulations could also see the city foot less of the bill for collecting hazardous waste, said Journeaux.

Organics tonnage still falls short of contract

As far as the green bins go, the City of Ottawa sent 71,000 tonnes to Orgaworld's composting facility in 2016, which is 9,000 tonnes short of what it paid for.

Under a 20-year contract, the city pays Orgaworld to process 80,000 to 100,000 tonnes a year, no matter what.

The city has never sent 80,000 tonnes to Orgaworld since it began the green bin program in 2010. The contract was even the subject of an audit in 2014.

The city also composted 5,400 tonnes of leaf and yard waste last year at its facility on Trail Road.