Oxford looks at countywide waste diversion program

·2 min read

More than half of what Oxford County residents toss in the trash can be diverted and repurposed, results from a new waste audit show.

The 2021 curbside waste audit, which is headed to county council this week, found up to 60 percent of the material in garbage bags is organic waste that could be sorted for repurposing, fertilizer and other soil amendments, and gasification technology to create energy from waste.

“Our number of 60 per cent for a municipality of our size and our composition that does not have an organics program in place is pretty standard,” said Pamela Antonio, supervisor of waste management.

She said the audit was conducted to provide an updated overview of waste generated by Oxford County residents — the last audit in 2017 showed 47 per cent of residential waste was organic — and to inform next steps to divert food and organic waste from landfills, a requirement by the province.

Under Ontario’s Food and Organic Waste Framework, larger municipalities soon will be required to develop a programto collect and process food and organic waste from single family dwellings. Alternative options to curbside collection programs also can be used if the same diversion targets can be met.

Woodstock, a city of more than 46,000 people, is the only Oxford County municipality that meets the threshold for such a program, the audit states. But by 2025, other municipalities in Oxford may hit that threshold, too, said Antonio. “If they hit that threshold, we’ll have to have the organics program in place for those municipalities,” she said.

That’s why the county, committing to achieve its zero waste target by 2025, is looking at whether it is feasible to introduce a county-wide food and organic waste diversion program. “It would take a more regional approach, so it’s not just one or a few municipalities, but all residents living within Oxford County receive the same service,” said Antonio.

Findings from the latest audit will help inform the county’s Organics Resource Recovery Technology (ORRT) review, launched earlier this month, to identify the best approach.

The report also indicates diverting organic material from landfills could increase the county’s overall landfill waste diversion rate and extend the life of the municipal landfill site, which sits between 30 and 35 years. Oxford has a landfill diversion rate of between 40 and 43 per cent and a residential waste diversion rate of around 55 per cent, Antonio said.

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Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press

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