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Curbside collection changes: frequently asked questions

Why do we need to change?
To provide the same level of service to everyone in Waterloo Region
These changes mean that residents in single family homes will receive the same service. Currently, there are different levels of waste management services offered throughout the Region, depending on where you live (e.g. lower bag limits in the Townships, every second week (instead of weekly) blue box collection in the rural areas of the Townships, no yard waste or green bin collection in the rural areas of the Townships, different frequency and limits for bulky items in the Townships compared with the Cities)
To preserve resources and protect the environment
  • We know that 53 per cent (by weight) of residential garbage going to the landfill could have gone in the green bin, and 14 per cent of it could have gone in the blue box. These organic and recyclable materials are valuable resources, and should not be buried in the landfill. As found in other municipalities, bi-weekly garbage collection presents the best opportunity to divert these resources for beneficial re-use:
    • Food waste can be turned info beneficial compost for farmers' fields, offsetting the need for commercial fertilizers and their potential environmental impacts.
    • Paper, metal and plastic can all be turned into valuable new products.
  • Better air quality:
    • Other municipalities identified a decrease in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with garbage collection every second week, due to fewer trucks on the road.
    • The organics wasted in our landfill generate methane, a greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming.
To reduce costs and preserve our community asset: the landfill
  • Beginning in 2017, the new waste collection contract is expected to save approximately $2.4 million dollars each year. Savings were achieved by Regional Council's decision to tender a contract that included garbage collection every two weeks, thereby reducing the number of garbage trucks needed and all the costs associated with running those trucks over the term of the contract. Regional Council, as part of their budget process deliberations, will decide how and where the cost savings will be applied.
  • We only have 15 to 20 years of capacity remaining in our one-and-only landfill. The cost to site and build another facility, (even if another landfill could even be sited/permitted) will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • When blue boxes, green bins and other diversion programs are fully used by citizens, only a small amount of waste requires curbside pick up for disposal in the landfill.

Please note: Most Waterloo Region households (about 86 per cent) only put out one or two bags of garbage.

Why can't you continue to pick up garbage weekly if the split-trucks are still coming to pick up green bins?

The trucks used to collect waste will be changing with the new contract.  In Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, a new style of truck will collect green bin organics and blue box recycling every week.  Separate trucks will alternate between Kitchener one week, and Cambridge/Waterloo the next week for garbage collection.  Keep an eye out for these new, white trucks beginning in March! 

What about people who are away on their garbage day? The garbage won't be picked up for a month...

If you are away on your garbage day, please consider the following:

  • Green bin and blue box waste will still be picked up weekly. Organics and blue box recyclables make up the majority of waste generated in an average household.
  • Ask a neighbour to help out by putting your items to the curb while you're away.
  • Garbage tags will be available for sale so additional garbage can be set out on your next collection day.
  • Garbage can be dropped off at one of the Region's transfer stations (fees will apply).
Have you considered households with large families?
Large families can still recycle and green bin the majority of their waste. No other municipality offers a "large family exemption". With unlimited green bin and blue box set out, the new four bag/container limit equals 96 kilograms (200 pounds) of garbage per collection. Families of all sizes are making garbage collection every two weeks work for them in Halton Region, and the cities of Ottawa, Barrie and Newmarket, all of which have lower bag limits than Waterloo Region.
Will large/bulky items still be collected?
Large or bulky items (e.g. appliances, furniture, and other things that do not fit in a standard garbage bag or can) will still be collected, every two weeks on the same day as garbage. There will be a 3 item limit at single family homes. 
What about if I'm doing a home renovation project?
Home renovation waste is not considered normal household garbage. No other municipality offers an exemption for renovation waste. This is considered construction/demolition material outside of normal curbside service, and can be brought to the local transfer stations for a fee or handled by a private waste management company.
What if someone dumps an extra bag in front of my house? What about roadside dumping of garbage?
Other municipalities saw a small, initial increase in garbage dumping when implementing bag limits and/or changing the frequency of garbage collection. However the issue quickly diminishes and does not continue long term. Municipalities work with residents to offer a fair solution. If dumping becomes an ongoing issue, Regional Waste Management staff will work with residents to resolve the issue, and involve the Region's by-law officers if necessary.  
I'm in a rural area of a Township, and my blue box is only collected every second week, and I have no green bin service. How could I manage these changes?
Your collection services will change in March, 2017, to include weekly blue box collection plus weekly green bin collection. This will help you recycle more and reduce your waste. Green bins will be delivered to all rural households which do not currently get service in January, 2017.  Watch your mailbox for more information shortly.
I live in an apartment building. How will these changes affect me? When will we get green bins?

Generally, the Region provides residential waste collection service to single family homes and multi-residential properties with six or fewer units. Effective March, 2017, the four bag garbage limit every two weeks applies to all single-family homes. Multi-unit properties having six units or under will have a maximum set out of ten bags (the current limit) every two weeks.

Apartment buildings and other multi-residential complexes with over six units are considered businesses under Provincial law, and are responsible for their own waste and diversion programs. The Region does not provide garbage collection service to large, multi-residential apartments, so these locations will not be affected by any of the Region's curbside policy changes.

The Region offers support through the Blue and Grey Cart recycling program. This program collects the same recyclables as the Blue Box program, but in large, wheeled carts. 

Owners/managers of multi-residential sites can contact their current or other haulers to research, consider and implement organics collection that best meets their needs.

Looking at the potential for improving diversion in multi-residential buildings has been identified as a second-stage priority option under the Waste Management Master Plan, and will be considered in the future.

What about businesses? Why don't you make them recycle/green bin?
The Region of Waterloo does not have any authority to enforce garbage and recycling collection for businesses. The Province of Ontario sets waste rules for businesses, and while they are required to recycle, the Province does not have any requirements for composting. Businesses are responsible for their own garbage collection. Private companies are hired to take away the garbage and recycling and decide where to take the material (many private haulers take business garbage out of the Region to commercial landfills for disposal).
What other changes could we see in the future?
  • Reduced bag limit. By 2019, the bag limit is expected to be reduced from four bags/containers to three every other week
  • Multi-residential waste strategy that helps to improve waste diversion.  Regional staff have committed to examining waste management and diversion programs for multi-residential properties beginning in 2019.
  • Thermal treatment of garbage. The Waste Management Master Plan, endorsed by Council in November 2014, recommends further research into thermal treatment of waste as the preferred option for residual garbage once the landfill is full. A thermal treatment feasibility study is underway, and information is available on the Region's website.

Why raise tipping fees for revenue, while asking residents to reduce the waste going to landfill?

About half of the waste that comes to the landfill is brought here by commercial customers. Tipping fees help pay to manage the landfill site and transfer stations, as well as helping to reduce the cost of our diversion programs. Although business garbage does contribute to filling up our landfill, it also helps fund our programs, helping to minimize the Waste Management impact on the tax base.
How can I prepare for these changes?
  • Monitor your garbage and bulky item set out to see if you will meet the new limits.
  • Continue to participate in curbside programs (e.g. blue box, green bin and yard waste) and drop-off programs (e.g. household hazardous waste, Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity donation centres).
  • If you are not green binning but want to (since it can reduce your garbage by 30 to 50 per cent!) pick up your free kit at either our Cambridge (201 Savage Drive) or Waterloo (925 Erb Street West, Gate 1) administration offices between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday.
  • Download the My-Waste app. This app has several functions to help you - including quick links to waste management information and reminders for collection schedules. See below for download details. An online version is available, too!
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