Town unveils ‘blue box’ options

Duane Hicks

Whether it’s providing recycling pick-up for the business sector, getting rid of “free” bags of garbage, or banning the dumping of recyclables at the landfill, a proposed “blue box” recycling strategy for the Town of Fort Frances should get people talking.
The draft strategy, devised by consultants Trow Associates Inc., was unveiled to the public yesterday evening at the Civic Centre, with the town now asking for residents to provide input as to what they think about the recommendations.
The point of the draft strategy is to help make the town’s “blue box” program more cost-efficient and divert a greater percentage of existing “blue box” material from the landfill, boosting the town’s recyclable diversion rate from 14.4 percent to 25.2 percent in five-10 years.
The following are recommendations included in the draft strategy:
•Public education, promotion
Continue with the town’s current and planned educational initiatives, as well as explore other opportunities for public education.
This could include a recycling brochure and magnet, a “new residents” information package, and information kiosks in public areas and at special events.
•Collection of recyclables from the business sector
Assess the feasibility of providing collection service for “blue box” recyclables to the town’s business sector, as well as assess the feasibility of funding this service as a utility.
•Transfer station/blue box depot upgrade
Complete upgrades to the transfer station/“blue box” drop-off depot located in the north end of town.
 •Bag tags
 Re-assess the current “one free bag” policy, and consider requiring a bag tag for all bags. Options could include keeping the price of bag tags the same or reducing it.
As well, the number of bags allowed at curb either could have no limit or be limited to three or four bags;
•Landfill disposal ban
Implement a landfill disposal ban for recyclables included in recycling program;
•Staff training
Have waste management staff participate in training sessions provided by waste management organizations (this may include either in-person conferences or seminars, or online webcasts).
Continue with collecting glass separately for reuse or recycling;
•Assessment of source-separated collection
Assess the cost-effectiveness of dual-stream collection of recyclables, weighing the added cost versus higher revenues.
This could include the option of weekly or bi-weekly collection the next time the town tenders for waste collection services.
•Charge for or ban plastic bags
Assess feasibility of implementing either a small fee on retail plastic bags, or an outright ban on them.
First impressions
Some of those who attended last night’s open house felt some of the recommendations were a good idea, but others had ideas of their own.
“It doesn’t really say a lot. It’s pretty basic black-and-white stuff,” said Gary Rogozinski.
“The most obvious thing on there is to provide some kind of service to the business core.
“Right now, if businesses want to recycle, they have to rent their own bins at their cost,” he noted. “If they [the town] provided some kind of service to them, as they do to every other resident, they could probably increase their recycling substantially.
“There’s lots of things they talked about, like residential separation right at the source,” Rogozinski added. “They did that before, then went away from it because of the cost.
“Unless there’s something that’s changed, it’s still going to be a more costly proposition, right?
“The more you recycle, the more it’s going to cost, so somehow you’re going to have to recover the costs either through taxes or more bag tags, user fees,” he remarked.
“If you want to recycle more, you have to pay more.”
Alan Tibbetts of H&R Block agreed, noting “blue box” pickup for local businesses would be ideal.
“I think the reason I came was I am interested in recycling downtown,” he said. “I have a business downtown and I think they could easily reach their targets by collecting from the downtown businesses, and then they could set a target even higher for the entire town.
“We’ve never had a downtown collection and I know, in talking to the BIA people, we’re sure people are interested in being able to recycle at the curbside rather than taking it home,” Tibbetts added.
“I’d also like to see them ban plastic bags in Fort Frances, too–if they can, I don’t know if it’s possible,” he conceded. “They might not be able to do it legally.
“But people should use reusable shopping bags. Everybody sells them now.”
“I’d like to see them start to pick up organics,” remarked Bob Dakin. “Various large and small communities seem to have the capability of processing the organics and producing compost.
“Some of them, if you bring organic in for compost, you can get some for free, or if you just want compost, you come in and pay so much per bag.,” he noted.
“I’d like to see them do something like that.”
Dakin also would like to see the town promote glass recycling and pick up glass for recycling, rather than having people drop it off at the bin at the Public Works building given you need a vehicle to get to there.
As well, Dakin said he’d like to see the town help promote the Ontario Tire Stewardship’s Used Tires Program just so people know they can get rid of their tires.
“You see tires all over the place that could have been dropped off at depositories,” he remarked.
John Reader said he’d like to see plastic bags banned, adding that although Safeway and others take them back, “you still see a lot thrown away.”
He also wants to see the one “free” bag of garbage policy remain.
“Charging for [bag tags], I’m okay with that,” Reader remarked. “Not that I like to see people charged for this, but I feel if you don’t, the recyclables are going to end up [in the landfill], too.”
As mentioned above, the strategy aims to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the town’s “blue box” program, increase the amount of waste recycled, and reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.
According to 2009 recycling statistics, the town’s “blue box” recyclable diversion rate is 14.4 percent. The strategy posits a short-term (three-five years) diversion rate goal of 20.3 percent and a long-term (five-10 years) target of 25.2 percent.
In 2009, the town had 2,589 tonnes of waste, of which 372 tonnes were recycled. This amounts to a diversion rate of 14.4 percent, with the other 85.6 percent of materials including undiverted “blue box” materials (10.8 percent), and other waste, such organics or otherwise non-recyclable materials (74.8 percent).
The 373 tonnes of recycables included:
•paper (312 tonnes);
•plastics (25 tonnes);
•glass (18 tonnes); and
•metals (18 tonnes).
John Smith, senior waste management consultant specialist with Trow Associates Inc., explained that while the proposed strategy aims to boost diversion here, 14.4 percent isn’t quite as low as it may seem.
“You have to remember, when you’re recycling with ‘blue box’-type recycling programs, the most you’re going to ever divert is 30 percent,” he explained.
“Approximately 30 percent, give or take, is ‘blue box’ recyclable material.
“When you start talking about 40, 50, 60 percent, that’s a holistic waste management system,” Smith noted.
Smith said the goal of the province is to push municipalities into at least looking at recycling programs is to get them to devise a strategy to improve what they’re doing, and then take that strategy and fit it into a larger waste management strategy.
“That comprehensive strategy would look at organics, different methods of disposal, and all of the other various components of waste, as well,” he explained.
The net cost of the “blue box” recycling program here in 2009 was $139,763, or about $375 per tonne of material recycled.
This breaks down to about $17 per person, which is below average for comparable municipalities.
Input needed
Smith stressed the recommendations in the plan are just “suggested options” at this time.
“Right now, we want to get the feedback from the public to see [how] these options fit for the community.
“Are there others areas that maybe we should be looking at, or are there some [recommendations] that the community just doesn’t agree with,” he noted.
Now that the draft strategy has been presented to the public, the next steps for this project include reviewing and analyzing the feedback obtained from the open house, finalizing the draft waste recycling strategy, and submitting it to council.
The town will be posting a copy of the waste recycling strategy on its website (, along with the feedback comment sheets.
All input will be forwarded to the consultant in order to finalize the strategy.
The strategy will be going to council for approval (in principle) at its Dec. 20 meeting as Waste Diversion Ontario mandates the strategy must be in place prior to Dec. 31.
As previously reported, the town receives about $62,000 a year from WDO to help assist with the cost of “blue box” pick-up here.
The town was prompted to develop a “blue box” recycling plan because WDO mandated that if Fort Frances does not have one in place by the end of this year, the town will have its “blue box” funding reduced by 15 percent.