Statistics show that waste disposal sites in Muskoka received over 400,000 visits in 2022 alone.
In a presentation made to the District Engineering and Public Works Committee on Wednesday, Director of Waste Management and Environmental Services Stephanie Mack outline statistics of waste collection facilities in Muskoka last year. During lockdowns caused by the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, waste disposal sites throughout Muskoka saw unprecedented traffic volumes. This includes during the normal low period of spring, fall and winter.
The report states that the summer high season is beginning much earlier and lasting much later in the year. What the data shows is a noticeable change in volumes of traffic, waste and length of high season in waste collection facilities through Muskoka. Traffic peaked in 2021, but in 2022 it was still far above pre-pandemic levels with 400,000 visits.
Municipal staff conducted a survey of residents in 2022 to get more information on the use of waste collection facilities as well as public comments on how the facilities run. The responses from the survey illustrate that despite increased usage, the majority of Muskoka residents dispose of waste through curbside pickup. Of the 465 responses to the survey, 410 or 88% had access to curbside waste collection. Despite only 12% of residents being required to visit waste collection stations, 277 or 59% of respondents stated that they visited a waste collection station. Of the 277 respondents 27% admitted to visiting at least once a week.
The report acknowledges that during the winter certain waste collection stations see very low volumes and could operate at reduced hours to save funds. Councillor Robert Lacroix spoke against this idea, highlighting the established operating hours and minimal cost savings.
“It doesn’t seem logical that we would interrupt but we’ve had for years at certain transfer stations. You know, people expect it to be open at certain times. And it just doesn’t seem reasonable to cut hours to save a few dollars,” Lacroix said.
With the upcoming transition of the blue box system, there has been a significant amount of change in waste disposal in Muskoka. Over the past several years the District has been transitioning smaller waste bins out of service throughout Muskoka. The removal of these bins pushes more waste towards larger waste collection locations. The removal of smaller bins has led to incidents of illegal dumping, but according to Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works James Steele the results have been positive.
“I think folks have adjusted their behaviours and found alternatives or have chosen to follow the rules. And so we’re seeing positive movement from the community on those sites,” Steele said.
Another area discussed was hazardous waste. Lacroix asked if it would be possible to expand hazardous waste collection in the Sinclair area. Lacroix highlighted that residents used to have their own hazardous waste station but to cut costs it was decided that the Franklin transfer station would be the deposit station for the whole area. Steele responded that hazardous waste is supposed to be producer responsibility and that the district is already handling a significant portion of the costs for handling this waste. Steele stated that there were fair reasons for this to ensure that residents had ease of access and to ensure that this waste was properly collected. But Steele said he wanted to emphasize that these extra costs were being passed onto the taxpayer and that any extra services would only add to increase this public cost.
“I think we just want to be really cautious about changing things to understand that ultimately it lands on the taxpayers,” Steele said.
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