Waste Collection will be changing for some businesses in Muskoka.
At the District’s Engineering and Public Works Committee meeting on Wednesday, Director of Waste Management and Environmental Services Stephanie Mack outlined two potential options for commercial garbage collection. Option 1 is the ending of all curbside waste collection for Industrial, Commercial and most Industrial (IC&I) in the District. Option 2 was the continuation of curbside collection only within the downtown areas.
The discussion around waste services is the result of legislative changes by the Provincial Government. In 2021 it was announced that the existing blue box program which is a combination of municipalities and waste producers would be altered. Now producers, companies responsible for producing household glass, plastic, metal and printed paper products, will be responsible for both running and paying for the blue box program.
The District of Muskoka is scheduled to transition to the new blue box program in the fall of 2024. Residential waste will be covered by the new program, but IC&I properties will not be serviced under the new program. The report from District staff was before committee to examine options for non-covered waste collection.
Staff outlined two options for the future of collection. Option 1 is the cessation of curbside collection to IC&I properties. This option would require all commercial businesses and other IC&I sources to bring all garbage and recyclable materials to a District drop-off transfer station or depot on a fee-for-service basis. The option does allow for curbside collection of garbage, but not recyclable material for IC&I properties.
Option 2, which is recommended by staff, allows for continued curbside collection for IC&I properties within the Buissness Improvement Area (BIA) and Main Street Areas. This option also includes the use of District drop-off facilities on a fee-for-service basis. The staff report outlines that option two is largely designed to ensure clean urban areas within the District. The mix of residential and commercial properties in downtown areas makes a mix of public and private waste collection difficult.
In practice option 2 means that the District will not be sending garbage trucks around the District to collect waste from IC&I locations. BIA areas will still be curbside service, but any location outside of the downtown area will be responsible for dropping off their own waste.
Committee members expressed support for Option 2, but insisted that mass communication was necessary for business owners. Muskoka Lakes Mayor Peter Kelley stated that there should be communication with local Chambers of Commerce to communicate the situation to businesses and allow them to decide on what works best for each business.
“You can’t over communicate this thing. You can’t start early enough. And just get it out there and make sure everybody knows what’s coming,” Kelley said.
A key part which was outlined by Mack was the interest in having residential and commercial waste being picked up on separate days of the week. This was due to needs to have these residential and commercial waste picked up by separate providers. Having garbage on the street two days a week was a concern for some committee members. District Chair Jeff Lehman highlighted that waste volumes in the summer would make multiple garbage days problematic.
“I do think two days of garbage on the street is problematic in the summer, especially in the BIA’s where you’ve got a lot of mixed properties where the line between residential and commercial is pretty blurred,” Lehman said.
Another concern is that more waste from commercial businesses would end up in landfills. The new report does not outline what potential changes to tipping fees, the fees paid to dispose of waste in landfills, would be to accommodate the new program. Business owners directly taking their blue box material to landfills is a concern that staff is looking into according to Mack. She stated that staff plan to investigate ways to track landfill traffic to see if there is an increase after the transition in 2024.
“We do not want to start to see blue box materials ending up in our landfill,” Mack said.
Lehman wanted it to be clear to both committee members and the public what exactly the services changes the Option 2 would entail.
“If we adopt this option businesses outside of the BIA areas who have historically received curbside collection will no longer. And we are going to ask them to bring it to a landfill, and we’re going to ask them to pay for that privilege. So there is that double whammy for that group of businesses,” Lehman said.
It was pointed out by staff that many large businesses already have agreements with private companies to dispose of their waste. Businesses like grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, would likely produce enough waste that they would have exceeded the limit on how much waste would be picked up by curbside pickup. Because of this existing dynamic staff believed that there will be a limited impact from the new policy.
Committee approved Option 2, which will be further developed by staff and communicated to stakeholders.
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