Waterloo region set to make pricey changes to waste management

Changes in the new contract include a switch to carts from bins, greener trucks and a four-day collection week. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)
Changes in the new contract include a switch to carts from bins, greener trucks and a four-day collection week. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

Changes are coming to the way residents throw away garbage, how it's picked up, and how much Waterloo region is spending to make it happen.

A new waste management contract with Emterra Environmental was brought before the regional planning and works committee last week. The contract includes a number of changes to the weekly collection process, but most notably, the price tag.

The new contract, estimated to cost $285 million over eight years, would come into effect in 2026. The estimated cost for the first year of this contract is set at $58 million, about $23 million more than what was projected in the region's approved 2024 budget last December.

But the 2024 budget was reflective of what the region was currently paying for waste management, said Jon Arsenault, director of waste management for the region.

"We're seeing a range of increases in contract costs from anywhere from 30 to 150 per cent," he said. "We went out for bids for 2026 and beyond and this is the bid pricing we got."

The new contract includes a number of new provisions that Arsenault said fall in line with other municipalities in southern Ontario. In a report by city staff from February of last year, engineering and environmental services outlined a criteria of service changes they wanted to see in waste management from their next contractor.

The list includes:

  • The switch to automated cart collection for garbage and green bin organics;

  • The switch to alternative fuel sources for garbage trucks;

  • Maintaining the existing collection frequencies of all waste; and,

  • A change to a four-day collection week (Tuesday to Friday).

Arsenault said that the presented contract includes all of the suggestions from the February 2023 report.

"We went out with a very good proposal scope of work. We got competitive bids, they understood the scope," he said.

Automated cart system

Carts, commonly known as bins, are the large, wheeled garbage containers with attached lids. Arsenault said the garbage cart will be about 240L in volume, or about three garbage bags worth, and the organics cart will be 120L in size.

The automated collection means the new garbage trucks will have robotic arms that reach out to pick up the carts and dump them, eliminating the need for the manual labourer typically seen riding on the back of the garbage trucks.

The removal of that position is what Arsenault said will be saving money in the long run.

"The whole issue of being able to retain labour for the contractors or for anyone is much more difficult," he said. "It's a tough job slinging bags around and doing all that and doing as many stops as they do all day."

"So by automating it…it's much easier to retain staff for longer."

Clean fuel garbage trucks

When it comes to the search for clean fuel trucks, Arsenault said that criteria was met as well.

"Instead of diesel, it's compressed natural gas. It's much better for the environment, much less in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Trucks are actually a lot quieter."

"There is a bit of a premium on the trucks up front to purchase," he added.

The contract was moved through the planning and works committee last week. It will be brought before the regional council for final approval on May 22.