Norfolk taking a hard look at green-bin program

Norfolk County is examining its $7-million waste-management budget as a potential source of savings in its annual operating budget. Monte Sonnenberg/Delhi News Record

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The $7 million Norfolk spends each year on waste management is comparable to what the county spends annually on public health.

As such, Norfolk council believes there is room for savings through modified collection and processing practices.

A green-bin program for food waste and other organic material is an option under consideration.

Public works does not support it, but council is open to the idea provided it can find a community willing to use green bins as a pilot project and a site nearby for composting and storage.

Port Dover Coun. Amy Martin is receiving signals that the community is ready to embrace this next phase in Norfolk’s recycling agenda.

Martin noted that farmers are eager to spread composted material on their fields and already pay large amounts to have it trucked in from Hamilton and beyond.

“I know in Port Dover there is an overwhelming amount of people who want to participate in a green-bin program,” Martin told council, adding farmers “are definitely in the market to buy from Norfolk County if we go that route.”

County staff is less enthusiastic. In her report to council on Sept. 3, waste management supervisor Merissa Bokla cited a number of “challenges.”

“There is currently a shortage of processing facilities with available capacity to accept green bin (food waste) material in Ontario,” Bokla says.

“Composting facilities that accept green bin material face odour challenges and difficulties meeting regulatory odour requirements by the Ministry of the Environment.

“Therefore, it is possible that Norfolk County may currently not be able to find a facility with available capacity to take green-bin material once collected. Staff are recommending that Norfolk not initiate an organics program at this time.”

The province set goals for municipalities in the area of green-bin recycling in 2018.

Norfolk’s target is “50 per cent waste reduction and resource recovery generated by single-family dwellings in urban settlements by 2025,” according to Ontario’s Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement.

Bokla estimates it would cost Norfolk nearly $2.5 million to set up a green-bin program.

This includes as much as $605,000 to provide households with a 12-gallon green bin that could be wheeled to the curb. This cost could be less because it assumes 100 per cent uptake in rural areas where residents have alternative means of composting food scraps and other organic waste.

The annual operating cost of the program, once established, is pegged at $1.84 million. This assumes each household produces six pounds of organic waste a week for a grand total of 4,000 tonnes per year.

Norfolk is partially on its way to meeting provincial objectives in this area because leaf, yard and garden waste are included in this calculation.

An adjustment Bokla recommends involves staging a leaf and yard-waste collection once a month in June, July, August and September. This would bridge the county collection schedule in this area in spring and fall.

Bokla estimates this would save the county up to $2,000 per month by diverting this material from the regular waste stream.

Bokla was advised to proceed with caution. Charlotteville Coun. Chris Van Paassen pointed out that grass clippings in particular will heat and possibly catch fire if packed into yard-waste bags during the hot summer months.

“You may want to check how you do that,” Van Paassen said. “Otherwise, your fire department is going to be busy.”

Bokla said afterward that she will look into the principles of spontaneous combustion and their implications for her proposal.

Other highlights from Bokla’s waste-management report include:

  • Norfolk council is inclined to ban the collection of recyclable materials in clear plastic bags in early December or later this winter in February or so. The idea is to avoid complicating current practices during the Christmas season.
  • Norfolk provides waste-management services to 30,200 households. The average household generates 500 kilograms of garbage a year. Including recyclables, the annual household production of waste materials rises to 884 kilograms.
  • Norfolk residents replace about 6,000 recycling boxes a year.
  • Bokla’s report stresses the importance of rinsing all food and other residue from materials before placing them in a recycling bin. Food and other residue can contaminate an entire truckload of recyclables. When that happens, the load is left at the landfill site.

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