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Waste Wise program exceeds targets in 1st year

By Brad Perry Feb 7, 2024 | 6:38 AM

Saint John’s new garbage and recycling collection has been a “resounding success” so far, according to city staff.

The Waste Wise program saw curbside recycling roll out to around 22,000 households across the city in Oct. 2022.

Along with the changes to recycling came new limitations on how much garbage can be placed at the curb.

Tim O’Reilly, director of public works for the city, said they hoped to reduce the amount of garbage going to the landfill by 15 per cent in the first year.

“Over the entire, on average, our residents have reduced their garbage usage, by weight, by 37 per cent,” O’Reilly said in an update to council on Monday.

That is equivalent to about 4,000 tons of trash, or an estimated 300,000 bags, according to the public works director.

O’Reilly said residents throughout the city diverted about 13 per cent of their waste to recycling during the first year.

“When you look at it by weight, it’s about 1,600 tonnes in that first year that people put into the recycling stream,” he said.

An increase in composing accounted for one-quarter of the garbage diversion, according to O’Reilly, with 39 per cent more compost heading to the landfill.

The city pays per ton to drop off garbage at the landfill and nothing for recycling, meaning the more items that are recycled, the more money the city saves.

O’Reilly said they saved an estimated $260,000 in tipping fees and brought in $238,000 through bag tag revenue, for an overall net savings of nearly $500,000.

About half of that will go toward operating costs while the other $250,000 will go toward repaying the city’s initial $3 million investment to implement the new system.

The city is preparing for even more savings once Circular Materials takes over the collection of recycling materials on May 1.

It is part of a new provincial program that sees packaging and paper product producers pay for collection and recycling.

Circular Materials, which collects fees from the producers, will secure a contractor to look after recycling collection.

While the costs are still being finalized, city staff have said the move is expected to save taxpayers between $500,000 and $1 million each year.

About a year later, in May 2025, curbside recycling extended to larger apartment buildings throughout the city.

Currently, people who live in buildings with five or more units are not eligible for curbside recycling. With the community blue bins also removed, those residents have to take their recyclables directly to the landfill.