City of Saskatoon considers whether people should pay for garbage pickup

City of Saskatoon considers whether people should pay for garbage pickup

Saskatoon City hall is studying whether to charge a fee for trash collection in Saskatoon to divert more waste from the landfill and to directly connect cost with usage.

City council’s environment, utilities and corporate services committee voted unanimously to direct staff to continue to explore converting waste services to a utility model to make it less dependent on property tax.

A utility model would mean charging fees based on usage and could involve various approaches.

Committee members said they were aware many people in Saskatoon will resist such a change.

“There’s some trepidation in the community over moving to this model,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.

The total cost of Saskatoon’s waste management program is more than $20 million a year, according to a city report. Slightly less than half of that, $9.47 million, is paid covered by property taxes, while the rest comes from various other sources, such as recycling collection fees.

A more specific report on what a waste utility in Saskatoon might look like is expected in August.

Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s acting general manager of corporate services, said the plan is in its preliminary stages and the soonest the city could implement a change would be about nine months to a year from now.

“I think this is a very promising move,” Coun. Mairin Loewen said. “I think this has a lot of potential to get us to where we need to be in terms of waste diversion.”

Loewen said she would like to see the implications of various options for the future of waste management.

“Certainly, there will be some communication challenges,” Coun. Darren Hill said.

The committee heard reports will be written on a proposed strategy for handling organic waste like food scraps and grass clippings, and for waste produced by businesses, industry and institutions.

Right now, the business, industrial and commercial sector accounts for about two-thirds of the material headed to the dump. Nearly 60 per cent of the material sent to the landfill by single-family homes in 2016 was organic.

Only 21.8 per cent of material was diverted from the landfill in 2016, only a slight improvement over 2015 and well short of the city’s goal to divert 70 per cent of material from the landfill by 2023.

The ultimate goal is to eliminate the need for a new landfill. The current dump was established in 1955.

Increased landfill competition in the region has meant the city has had to shortchange its reserve fund to establish a new landfill in order to cover the cost of operating the current one. The city needed to transfer $3.5 million to the reserve fund in 2017, but only transferred about half that.