Costly Mistakes Have Taxpayers Paying for the Mess

There are few issues at city hall more frustrating than the never-ending mess that is the city’s green bin program. And unfortunately, it’s not getting any better, not by a long shot. Sadly, some people feel that when there’s a problem at city hall, the only way to deal with it is to throw more of our money at it. And where the green bin program is concerned, taxpayers’ money has been wasted for far too long.

On a personal level, I sometimes hate writing about what a colossal financial disaster the green bin program has been. I can’t help but worry the negative press from journalists is in part why so many hate the very idea of the green bin. As I first reported in the Sun when I was the city hall columnist there, staff appeared to simply pick a target for the expected tonnage out of thin air and signed taxpayers up for a deal that has cost them wasted millions. The 20-year contract with Orgaworld has the city paying to process a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of organic waste. But the city has never reached that tonnage since the green bin program began in 2010. Last year, the city sent just 71,000 tonnes to Orgaworld’s composting facility, costing taxpayers an extra $1 million for nothing. When the city began preparing for the introduction of the green bin, it came with a $1 million communication plan, that included young employees – clad in green bin promoed T-shrts – knocking on our doors. Such a waste. And now, with the numbers still lagging, some believe the way to solve the problem is more money spent on education. That is absolute garbage.

There is still a solid group of taxpayers who’ve dug in their heels on ever using the green bin for what it was built to do. There was a mini-revolt from rurals involved in the program returning their green bin to the city, others joking that it was going to make a great vessel to keep beer cold. Try as I might, I have never been able to understand people’s resistance to the program, given both the financial benefits and perhaps more importantly, extending the life of the city’s landfill. And frankly, I have found myself resenting those who don’t use. Yes, there’s the yuck factor. The truth is the yuck has always been picked up once a week. It still is.

When I campaigned for city councillor back in 2014 for councillor in Gloucester-South Nepean, I have to admit I was naive enough to think I could change people’s perception of the green bin. I thought at the time, that those who were hesitant with the green bin had trouble using it. Truth is, the people I spoke to on the campaign trail who were resistant to the bin have simply refused to even try it. They understand how it works, so don’t bother wasting time trying to ‘educate’ them.

And so the garbage piles up at the city’s dump. With a contract that’s an incredible mess and the city still involved in litigation, there’s no quick fix. There’s talk about allowing the public to use plastic bags, but with the lawsuit still hanging over our heads, that can’t happen anytime soon. And plastics are bound to add an even higher price tag to an already exorbitant contract. There are of course other alternatives to avoiding the so-called yuck factor, like those small kitchen catcher bags. Making matter worse, the city has all but given up on its own long-term strategy until the province comes up with its own review.

This garbage fiasco is city made, but we taxpayers are left paying for the mess.

1 Comment

  1. Sue:
    Although I have issues with how Ottawa implemented and administers the green bin program, I use it. Some of my neighbours with the same issues do not.

    One of the issues we have is the design of the bin. Contrary to the spin that Ottawa counselors and bureaucrats put out, it is not raccoon proof. (There are Youtube videos proving my point.) One of my neighbours was able to get a replacement with a different handle that seems to have thwarted the pesky critters, but when I tried to get the same model, I was offered only another one of the originals. When I and a couple of my neighbours started using bungees to hold the lid down, we were told that was against the rules.

    The second issue is the “plastic bag” prohibition. When the green bin program started, I wrote directly to Orgaworld inquiring about using cellulose compostible bags. I was told “the Orgaworld facility serving Ottawa is capable — and does — handle waste arriving in plastic bags. They are shredded and screened out by a machine at the beginning of the composting process.” This position has been repeated here

    So I don’t understand why our city government continues to forbid their use, citing increased costs. I can only assume that this is just another ploy by Orgaworld to rip off citizens even more – a ploy supported by our city government.

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