Cost of Ottawa’s Curbside Waste Collection

Notes for Meeting with Councillors Nov 15/18

What does the City of Ottawa Charge for Waste?

An Ottawa household with an annual property tax bill of $6,000 will pay about $150 that can be attributed to solid waste collection and processing.  This includes an amount of about $60 in the general property tax levy. The general levy depends on the assessed value of the house.

There is a flat additional $90 per unit as a special charge for curbside waste collection.  The special charge was introduced at the same time as the green bin composting program.  It does not depend on the property assessment. Most residences are considered to be a single unit.  Some properties will pay 50% or less if they are duplexed units or condominiums.

Shifting the Incidence of the Charges 

By imposing user fees several cities have been able to cut the property tax burden for curbside waste collection by as much as 50%.  This 50:50 payment allocation has been used for many years as a touchstone to allocate the costs of urban transit between rider fees and property tax support.  The 50% allocation could also be a yardstick for waste pricing.  It seems to be used as a yardstick for waste collection costs in Belleville Ontario.

User fees and how to structure

A wide range of “pay-as-you-throw” systems are currently used in other cities in Ontario. There are many important details that vary among cities, such as the use of clear bags, no charge for the first 1-2 bags each week and special bulky item charges.

Another less direct system of PAYT can be simulated by charging different rates for different sized waste receptacles. In Toronto residents must pay for approved units based upon the actual nominal capacity of the bin purchased but there is no actual PAYT charge.  This is a more subtle version of PAYT that could be a possible option in Ottawa.  Gatineau may be doing this?

Benefits of User Fees on Residual Curbside Waste

A well-designed PAYT system will encourage more recycling.  Whatever goes into recycling bins is treated as “free” to residents. All residual waste sent to a landfill is not free.  Most people understand the rationale and they only need to be reminded with the “nudge” to do the right thing each week. PAYT will reduce the amount of waste going to Trail Road and thus extend the life of this important municipal asset.  It will also reduce the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions associated with any organics that are now sent to landfills. This is a very important factor to consider.

Bill Toms