Lyndell Coates, Project Manager - Environmental Programs, City of Ottawa


September 1, 2011



Pamela M. Russell

Project no.


Summary of workshop discussions – City of ottawa Waste Management plan



The City of Ottawa (the “City”) is developing a Municipal Waste Management Plan (MWMP) to guide the management of solid waste in the City for the next 30 years. As part of this initiative, the City hosted a series of workshops to obtain feedback from key stakeholders. In total, ten workshops were conducted between August 4th and August 18th, 2011, with representatives attending from the following sectors:

¡   Facility Owners/Managers;

¡   Waste Service Providers;

¡   Institutions;

¡   City Waste Managers and Planners;

¡   Producers and Stewards;

¡   Industrial Commercial & Institutional (IC&I) Sector (Businesses);

¡   City of Ottawa Facility Managers;

¡   General Public; and

¡   Environmental and Lobby Groups.

The purpose of this memorandum is to provide a general summary of the key themes and issues discussed at the workshops and to identify opportunities to be considered by the City as part of the MWMP process.

1.0           Waste Diversion Programs and targets

Workshop attendees described a number of waste diversion programs that were currently being implemented in their facilities. In addition to the diversion of traditional recyclables (i.e., cans, bottles, paper), programs are in place for the recovery of a wide range of materials including organics, sinks, pipes, electronics, roadway sweepings, propane cylinders, batteries, lighting, printer cartridges, coffee grounds, plastic toys and bicycles.

 As part of the Diversion 2015 exercise, the City estimated a 14% diversion rate in the IC&I sector with the potential to increase this diversion rate to 81%, if all of the potentially recycled materials were segregated for recycling. Statistics Canada figures indicate a 12.7% diversion rate for the IC&I sector in Ontario[1]. The IC&I sector and the waste service providers that attended the workshops generally agreed that the current IC&I waste diversion rate in the Ottawa Region is more likely in the range of 30-35%.

Because the IC&I sector consists of such a large number of diverse operations with varying levels of documentation on waste management practices, it is very difficult to obtain accurate data for waste diversion in the IC&I sector. Typical waste diversion streams not taken into account when waste diversion data for the IC&I sector is being collected include concrete, asphalt, metal and organics going to agricultural uses.

Although most businesses represented at the workshops did not have a firm waste diversion target, a few had aggressive diversion targets and there were many examples cited of innovative waste diversion programs.

¡   The Rideau Centre has a waste diversion target of 50%, and are currently diverting just under 30% of the normal waste stream.

¡   Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has a waste generation target of 95 kilograms per employee per year. They are currently achieving a generation rate of 113 kilograms per employee per year, with some PWGSC buildings achieving in excess of 70% waste diversion.

¡   The National Capital Commission (NCC) has a goal to reduce the amount of waste generated at events that they host (e.g., Canada Day, Winterlude) by 50% and to divert 70% of their operational waste by 2017.

¡   The Construction Resource Initiatives (CRI) Council is a non-profit industry led organization located in the National Capital Region which includes building owners, developers, managers, contractors, architects, designers, product manufacturers, waste haulers, governments, educators and other environmental stewards. They have a target for zero waste to landfill by 2030, either through diversion, elimination of waste or encouraging the use of products that have a longer lifespan.

¡   The University of Ottawa has a zero waste target by 2020. This target has been accepted by the University’s Board of Governors.

¡   As reported by the representative from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), hospitals have a more difficult challenge to divert waste due to the amount of biohazardous (anatomical and pharmaceutical) wastes that they generate. CHEO has a diversion target of 50% for their non-biohazardous waste.

Generally, it appeared that public sector representatives attending the workshops were more proactive with establishing waste diversion targets and waste reduction plans than the private sector businesses.

Several workshop attendees questioned if a 60-70% diversion rate is a reasonable target and pointed out that  diversion for the sake of diversion may not always be the best choice. It was suggested that a life-cycle assessment is needed to determine if some materials should currently be diverted.   Taking into account energy recovery from an engineered landfill and the energy consumed at recycling facilities, it may be more environmentally sustainable to dispose of some materials in landfill (e.g., how environmentally sustainable is it to haul polystyrene to Toronto for processing). It was felt that a directory of materials that can currently be recycled in the Ottawa area would be useful.

At many of the workshops, it was stated that the current method of measuring diversion rates is ineffective as it does not take into account waste reduction, which is the most important option for managing waste. Also, over the past several years there has been a general “lightweighting” of the recycling stream due to smaller newspapers and the transition from glass to plastic packaging. This makes it more challenging to maintain or increase diversion rates because the materials that are being diverted are getting lighter. It was suggested that waste should be tracked based on kilograms disposed per resident. For the IC&I sector, tracking should be based on kilograms disposed per employee by various business types.

At one workshop it was suggested that instead of tracking a percentage diversion target, the City should ban an additional material each year from landfill.

The majority of workshop attendees felt that zero waste is not a feasible goal. The waste service providers are seeing interest in increasing diversion, but not zero waste. Generally, the workshop attendees believed that a 60% waste diversion target is realistic as a 10 year goal.

2.0           Barriers to Diversion

A number of barriers to waste diversion were identified through the workshops. The barriers identified were generally consistent with the majority of the stakeholder groups.

2.1             Financial

The major barrier to waste diversion appears to be the increased cost (real or perceived) to divert waste instead of disposing of it. Since most businesses are profit oriented, they do what is the most fiscally expedient. This concern was more prevalent with the private sector than with the public sector. Some representatives stated that they only divert materials that they can obtain revenue for (e.g., scrap metal) with everything else going to landfill. This is particularly an issue in multi-residential units where rent is constrained by rent control legislation.  The fact that the cheapest option to manage waste is to dispose of it is a disincentive to waste diversion programs. In addition, waste diversion programs typically have capital costs for set up (bins, carts) and higher administration costs.

Several businesses represented were concerned that they were actually paying twice for waste management, since waste management costs are included their taxes, and yet they also need to contract with the private sector to manage their waste.

Minto Group Inc. installed a tri-sorter to allow residents to segregate waste and recyclables in one of their buildings. The capital cost was in the range of $50,000- $60,000 for the equipment, and has a 100 year payback. They need additional incentives to make that kind of capital investment.

2.2             Space Constraints

The lack of available space to set up proper source separation areas was discussed as a barrier to diversion, particularly in the Business Improvement Associations (BIAs), construction sites, community housing and multi-residential buildings. Many older buildings simply are not suited to collecting multiple waste streams. In addition, Fire Code restrictions do not allow for the set up of recycling collection bins in hallways.

It was stated that in the downtown area waste cardboard is piling up and is being used by homeless people for temporary housing. One participant suggested that the City bring a collection trailer to specified locations within the downtown area at scheduled times and businesses could bring their waste out and deposit it directly into the trailer, thus eliminating the need for garbage to be sitting out on the curb. Other participants at the workshop noted some concerns about how well this would work.

2.3             Contracts

It was stated that local waste service providers are good at ensuring that materials are being diverted, provided that specifications for recycling are written into tenders. Long term (e.g., 20 year) service contracts for collection are problematic as they do not allow for changes and new opportunities for waste diversion. Many of these contracts have been based on cost alone and do not take into account opportunities for diversion.

2.4             Inconsistencies in Programs

At many workshops it was stated that inconsistency between recycling programs at home and in the workplace cause confusion. Some waste service providers do not allow for the same materials in the recycling and organics streams as are allowed in the residential programs. For example, CHEO found that their waste service provider would not accept paper coffee cups, paper plates or paper towels in the green bin program.

Some residents expressed comments that understanding what plastics are recyclable is complicated and needs to be simplified.

2.5             Lack of Stable Local Markets and Processors

Both the waste service providers and IC&I representatives stated that there was not the same availability for processing recyclables or end markets as there would be in Toronto. In particular, there is a need for local processing capacity and markets for carpet, hardwood, shingles, drywall, and wood. The volatility of revenue for recovered materials was also cited as being a problem.

This was pointed out as a potential opportunity for creating new business opportunities.

2.6             Lack of Incentives for Diversion

It was felt that there was a lack of incentive to divert waste and that the City should implement landfill bans or increased tipping fees for disposing of recyclable materials. Although the City has a three bag limit for residential waste, one resident stated that her neighbour consistently puts out up to 15 bags of waste a week and it is picked up.

Individuals should be responsible for the waste that they generate. One IC&I representative explained that in their office building, employees are required to take their waste and recyclables to a centre collection location instead of having the cleaners pick it up.

Some people felt that recycling and composting was already too inconvenient, and that all waste should be sent to one location to be processed through a mixed waste processing facility (i.e., thermal treatment or “dirty MRF”). Some attendees commented that it was difficult to provide incentives for staff to properly separate materials for recycling.

2.7             Lack of Leadership

Several workshop attendees expressed that the City of Ottawa as the Nation’s Capital should be a leader in waste management, be more visionary and develop long term goals for waste reduction. It was stated that because politicians are averse to controversy and change, the City was not moving forward in waste management.

There was the perception that waste management programs in the City have become inconsistent and have been depleted since amalgamation, and that there is less cooperation between the City and the IC&I sector.

It was also stated that there is need for more leadership in waste management at the provincial level. There is uncertainty about what the Province will do with respect to waste management, which makes long term planning difficult.

2.8             Regulatory Issues

Some participants expressed concern that the difficulty in obtaining approvals for waste management infrastructure in Ontario was a deterrent to development of waste management infrastructure. Others felt that technologies that recover Energy From Waste (EFW) should be considered diversion instead of disposal, which is currently not the case in Ontario.


2.9             General Consumption Patterns

Some representatives pointed out that there is an overriding issue of consumption patterns. Often it is cheaper to dispose of a whole item or piece of equipment rather than to buy replacement parts, such as batteries or printer cartridges.

There is a need to educate people about the life cycle aspect of products that they purchase so that they are smarter in their choices. Voluntary simplicity should be promoted instead of over-consumption. Community groups may be able to share resources (e.g., tool co-ops) instead of each buying and maintaining their own equipment. People and organizations should be encouraged to purchase more durable goods that will last longer, to pass useable items onto others, or to lease products instead of purchasing them. A good example of this is that Carleton University leases refrigerators to students in residence instead of having the students purchase their own.


3.0           creating BEHAVIOURAL Change

Many workshop attendees described innovative and positive methods that they were using to create behavioural changes with respect to waste reduction and diversion or proposed ideas of how behavioural change could be encouraged.

3.1             Incentives

Many attendees stated that it should be easier to divert waste and more expensive and inconvenient to dispose of it. This can be done through increased tipping fees at landfills and penalties for disposing of recyclable materials. It was also proposed that Eco Centres be developed throughout the City for the collection of recyclable materials from both the residential and IC&I sector.

Recognition for environmental programs would be an incentive for more commitment to waste diversion.

Several people stated that effective programs need a Champion to create buy-in for waste diversion programs. One example of this is that Carleton University has a “Green Team” of upper year students to help new students with recycling during move-in week.

3.2             Regulations

Many multi-residential buildings and IC&I facilities are required to have in place waste audits, waste reduction plans and source separation programs under Ontario Regulation 102/94 and 103/94 (the “3R regulations”).

The 3R regulations are seen as a motivating force if they are enforced. In the Ottawa area, these regulations are currently being enforced for some hotels, schools, continuing care facilities and larger restaurants. An inspection by a Ministry of the Environment (MOE) enforcement officer was an incentive for the Ottawa Carleton District School Board to improve waste management data collection, documentation, and improve their waste diversion programs.

It was suggested that the City may want to lobby the province to lower the minimum requirements (i.e., size, employee numbers) that determine which facilities are governed by the 3R regulations to ensure that more businesses are required to implement waste diversion programs. It was also suggested that the City may want to lobby the province to obtain the authority to enforce the 3R regulations, since the province may not have enough resources to do consistent enforcement.

3.3             Partnerships

There were many examples provided at the workshops of partnerships developed to implement waste diversion programs. For example, the University of Ottawa provides the Ottawa Food Bank with old ink cartridges, and the Food Bank receives food vouchers in return for the cartridges. The four Ottawa School Boards also partnered in issuing joint tenders for the hauling and processing of recyclables, thus providing standardization of programs and cost savings due to economies of scale. Another partnership opportunity that was suggested is the potential to share the use of a polystyrene densifier that the City of Gatineau is planning to install in their new recycling facility.

3.4             Education

Providing waste reduction and diversion education for the residential and IC&I sectors was identified as a major opportunity for behavioural change at all of the workshops. It was felt that there is a disconnect between people understanding what happens to their waste, and the suggestion was made that tours of local landfills and recycling facilities would be helpful to promote awareness. People need to understand how waste management relates to life-cycle costs, environmental effects and resource depletion.

Public education seemed to be particularly required in the multi-residential sector where tenant turnover is an issue. Multi-residential buildings also accommodate a large immigrant population who may not be accustomed to North American waste management practices and may not be fluent in either English or French. Landlords would appreciate a partnership with the City to provide workshops for tenants on proper recycling methods and feedback on results. The representative from Eastern Ontario Landlord Association stated that they achieved more diversion in a building with seniors and young professionals than those with students, young people and blue collar workers.

The representative from the BIAs had little to no awareness of the City’s yellow bag program for small to medium sized businesses. General promotion of this program would be helpful in creating behavioural change with the BIAs.


4.0           The City’s Role in Waste Management

Although all participants recognized the City’s role in residential waste management, there were differing opinions with respect to whether the City should be involved in waste management in the IC&I sector.

Most representatives from the IC&I sector and the waste service providers thought that the City should not be involved in the management of waste from the IC&I sector. Some representatives from the City however, felt that any waste that is deposited in either private sector or public sector landfills within the City has the potential to adversely affect the local environment (e.g., water and air quality), and therefore the City should be involved in the management of all waste generated within the City. It is important to note that the draft Choosing Our Future exercise encompasses waste from all sectors (residential and IC&I) and envisions that “waste will approach zero”.

It was well recognized that the City has no authority or control over waste generated from the IC&I sector, however there was a feeling that the City should lead by example. It was stated that it is discouraging for people to see that the City does not provide the same opportunities for diverting waste in City facilities as residents are being asked to do in their homes.

4.1             Education and Facilitation

A reoccurring theme at all of the workshops was need for the City to provide more education and facilitation of waste management programs in both the residential and IC&I sectors. In particular, the IC&I sector is interested in finding out more about waste diversion opportunities and funding programs that are available to help with the cost of implementing waste management system (e.g., Federation of Canadian Municipalities Green Fund, Green Hospital Champion Fund).

By recognizing good performance in waste management through a Business Certification Program, the City could promote waste diversion in the IC&I sector. The certification could be in the form of a plaque or door sticker to identify to the public what businesses are environmentally friendly. There could be specific waste reduction/diversion targets for various business types. It was also suggested that certification may include a Code of Conduct for how the business manages their waste. One school board representative stated that an eco school certification has led to competition between the various schools, with 70% of schools now being eco certified.

Publicizing the innovative waste reduction programs that have been undertaken by various businesses provides recognition to the individuals and companies that implement those programs, and is also a way to share success stories with other businesses that may want to improve their waste diversion performance.

The workshop attendants thought that ongoing focus groups facilitated by the City would be beneficial for the exchange of waste diversion information. The focus groups could also host webinars on specific waste management issues. This facilitation role may be particularly valuable for the numerous BIAs, who appear to be operating in isolation of each other.

Citizen engagement activities were also supported for the residential sector, with the suggestion that the City could facilitate waste reduction challenges between various communities throughout the City.

4.2             Green Procurement

There was a discussion about the volatility in the value of recycled materials.  The City and Federal Government should lead by example with green procurement programs. This would not only promote green procurement in other businesses, but would help to develop stable end markets for recyclable products and compost. The City should establish minimum recycled content in their procurement policies and promote the use of compost in City parks and sports fields.

4.3             Development of Waste Infrastructure

The City needs to ensure that waste management infrastructure is available and competitive for all by creating a business investment climate that encourages private sector investment. It was stated that there are three areas zoned for waste management within the City, and there was hope that this land will be set aside for future waste management infrastructure.

Many participants suggested the development of Eco Stations to provide the opportunity for the diversion of specific materials that are not recovered through the blue box or green bin programs, such as polystyrene, wood, scrap metal, tires, appliances/white goods, waste electronics, textiles, mattresses, reusable items drywall and hazardous wastes. These Eco Stations could be permanent depots or operate in conjunction with existing City Public Works yards.

Strong support was expressed by one participant for the City to take over operation of the OrgaWorld Composting Facility and to establish a Municipal Solid Waste Commisssion

4.4             Enforcement of Policies

It was suggested that the City has the ability to influence waste management behavior and attitudes through policies such as bag limits, Pay As You Throw (PAYT) program, zero waste policies, clear bag programs, bi-weekly waste collection, green procurement, higher tipping fees or full life-cycle cost disposal charges, specific policies targeting IC&I waste, etc.

Some participants felt that these policies should be enforced with penalties, fines and not collecting non-compliant materials. Others supported a softer approach, such as door to door visits with residents that do not comply with the City’s policies.


5.0           Opportunities for Improvement

Through the first series of workshops, the City obtained valuable input from a broad range of stakeholders. This input will assist in the development of a long range waste management plan for residents and the IC&I sector in the City.  Although the City does not have the authority to manage waste from the IC&I sector, it was recognized at the workshops that they have a vested interest in ensuring that IC&I waste is managed responsibility. The City should not do IC&I waste management programs, but they should drive them through education, facilitation and recognition programs.

Based on this information, there are several opportunities that the City may wish to consider in moving forward with the MWMP.

In summary, the City may wish to:

1)       Develop a vision for waste management in collaboration with the community and seek support from Council for the vision.

2)       Lead by example by incorporating recycling and composting programs in City facilities, zero waste policies, and green procurement.

3)       Develop a comprehensive public education program for residents and the IC&I sector.

4)       Develop Eco Stations to provide the opportunity for the diversion of specific materials that are not recovered through the blue box or green bin programs.

5)       Implement bans on recyclable and compostable materials from landfill.

6)       Assist the IC&I sector with standardizing waste management programs across the City to reduce the confusion that results when workplace waste diversion programs differ from what they are accustomed to at home.

7)       Facilitate focus groups within the various IC&I sector groups to promote the exchange of information on waste reduction and diversion.

8)       Implement a program for recognizing good performance in the IC&I sector through a Business Certification and Recognition Program.

9)       Work collaboratively with the MOE to ensure that the 3R regulations are being enforced within the City.

10)    Use some examples of innovative programs within the public sector as success stories to motivate other businesses to follow.

11)    Develop an inventory of local processors and markets for various waste materials.

12)    Set aside land for waste management infrastructure and try to attract private sector waste management investment.

13)    Conduct a material specific life-cycle assessment to determine the most environmental sustainable method of managing different waste streams. 

14)    Develop policies to encourage the diversion of waste in the residential sector (bag limits, PAYT, biweekly collection) and ensure that they are being enforced.

15)    Provide information and coordinate efforts that would assist residents and businesses move away from consumerism. One example is to develop specifications to assist residents and businesses with the procurement of more durable products.

16)    Investigate incorporating requirements for development of waste reduction plans as part of the Site Plan Approval Process for any new development. This may include the need to provide equal level of accessibility for recycling and waste disposal in multi-residential buildings.

17)    Consider the development of a mixed waste processing facility for managing materials from areas where it is difficult to get proper separation, such as multi-residential buildings, the transit system, and the BIAs.


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[1] Waste Management Industry Survey: Business and Government Sectors, 2008