Committed to reducing waste and improving the city of Ottawa’s waste management practices and contributing to a greening of the city by supporting the development of new and improved waste diversion programs.

Enhancing Waste diversion and User Pay

Starting in July 2023 funding and operation of the city’s blue and black box recycling programs is transitioning to the producers and users of the packaging and printed paper materials that are collected in the program.  Click here for more information.

Despite this significant change from municipal responsibility the city has many other avenues to enhance diversion of materials from disposal and to extend the life expectancy of the Trail Road landfill site.

Photo: Regional Municipality of Waterloo

User Pay

WWO supports the implementation of a user pay system for waste collection and strongly urges Council to implement such a program as part of the adoption of a new Solid Waste Master Plan.

Ottawa already has a user pay system in place to service small businesses that generate less than 16 bags of garbage every 2 weeks. Businesses that use the program must purchase yellow bags which are sold in packages of four for $16.80 or $4.20 per bag (effective January 1, 2022) and are available at participating Home Hardware and BMR stores.

Similar to the yellow bag business program, under a user pay program, residents would pay either partially or fully for the waste that they put out for curbside collection. Waste collection would in effect operate as a utility like hydro, water and natural gas, where you pay based on the level of service you consume. Under a partial scheme a limited amount of waste would be collected and paid for through property taxes and any garbage bin or bag above the limit would be paid for by the resident with a user pay tag that the municipality would sell.

Full and partial user pay systems are widely used in Ontario and elsewhere and have been shown to reduce the amount of waste put out for collection by encouraging greater participation in recycling and green bin programs.

City waste audits show that 50% of the garbage that is collected and hauled for landfill disposal should have either been put into the recycling bins or into the green bin. A full or partial user pay system provides a small incentive and a reminder that garbage collection is not “free” and encourages use of the recycling and green bin programs for which there would be no visible fee.

Restricting what can be put out for collection

A user pay system should be supported by a reduction in the amount of waste that is eligible for collection and restrictions on what will be collected. At the present time the city has a very generous by-weekly limit of 6 containers or bags. WWO believes this should be reduced to 2 containers bi-weekly and then to only one container. Explicit bans on collection should be put in place for things like electronic waste and textiles that can or should be recycled.

Other waste diversion and recycling opportunities

Waste Watch Ottawa supports the development of other programs to encourage and support waste diversion and recycling beyond what is currently managed by the blue and black box programs. The following are some examples:

  • Special separate bulky waste curbside collection
  • Special collection bins for textiles
  • City depots where things like household special wastes, electronics, and appliances can be brought for recycling and proper disposal
  • Expanded mobile drop off collections and temporary depots
  • Wider promotion and support for reuse centres for things like used furniture

WWO Report on User-Pay

June 25, 2019

With contributions from University of Ottawa’s Dr. Mary Trudeau’s spring 2019 Masters in Environmental Sustainability, Capstone Course

“Ottawa’s waste diversion performance continues to be mediocre and is below the provincial average and well behind leading municipalities. One way of achieving significant improvement would be to implement a partial or full user pay system for garbage. User pay systems are widely used in Ontario municipalities and are a proven factor in achieving much better rates of waste diversion than is being achieved by The City of Ottawa.

“A user pay program would provide direct financial incentives to householders to reduce their dependence on the garbage collection system and improve participation in recycling and organics programs. The user pay program would be financed by fees payable on garbage bags or carts. Under a user pay program for Ottawa all recycling and organics collection would continue to be provided at no direct cost to the householder and would continue to be funded through property taxes. In user pay systems municipalities fund their waste management programs more along the lines of a utility with residents required to pay directly, in whole or in part, for the waste management services that they actually consume. User pay waste systems operate much like other municipal utilities such as water where consumption is measured and residents are invoiced based on the water used. Similarly hydro and gas services are paid for based on the level of consumption.”

Read the full report here…

For more WWO reports, check out our Reports and Projects page.