Peterborough County mulls options for countywide organics program

Peterborough County could be following the City of Peterborough with its own curbside organics program to help reduce landfill waste.

On Wednesday, county councillors were presented with several options for a possible countywide organics program. The city began its own organics program last fall.

County staff said an organics study and trial programs estimate a countywide program could annually divert 4,500 tonnes of green waste. The city estimates up to 5,600 tonnes of organics can be diverted through its curbside program.

Kerri Snoddy, the county’s manager of waste management, says the goal is to help extend the life of the Peterborough County-City waste management landfill on Bensfort Road in the city.

“It’s not just us that has about 10 years left of capacity in our landfill,” she said. “All across Ontario, municipalities are facing the same issue.”

County staff say the program options include a curbside organics collection at all addresses that currently receive weekly curbside garbage and recycling collection.

The program would see the county spend up to $2.1 million to purchase and provide green bins and kitchen catchers to homes. Over a 10-year-period, the program is estimated to cost over $2.2 million annually.

A second option would have the county purchase and provide countertop composters to all households. The program would have a startup cost of $3 million to $4 million and cost over $1.8 million annually over a 10-year period.

Currently, less than three per cent of residents own a countertop composting unit, staff note.

“A countertop composting organics diversion program has the potential to reduce our CO₂ emissions produced by garbage and organics disposal by 80 per cent,” notes Kerri Snoddy, the county’s manager of waste management.

Snoddy offered a third hybrid option consisting of both curbside collection and countertop composters. Combined, they would be the most expensive option at a startup cost of over $5.3 million and over 10 years cost nearly $3.7 million annually.

County councillors shared various opinions on the options, including Selwyn Township Deputy Mayor Ron Black, who is critical of the countertop composters.

“My concern about the countertop recyclables is their life cycle; ours failed in the first year,” he said.

Otonabee-South Monaghan Township Mayor Joe Taylor says many residents currently have their own solution for organic waste.

“Most rural residents, including me, dispose our food waste at the fence line behind the house,” he said. “And it works just fine.”

Asphodel-Norwood Township Deptuy Mayor Lori Burtt says many rural residents will likely keep doing their own composting.

“They don’t need these composters. Some will but not all,” he said. “I like the idea of urban areas. Maybe it’s a pilot project, starting in the urban areas and expanding that.”

Trent Lakes Deputy Mayor Carol Armstrong suggested the options be presented to each municipality.

“They have to look at the different options and come back with what works for them and what’s tolerable for them to support,” Armstrong said. “So personally, I don’t think this decision can be made at the council table.”

A county staff report recommends further investigating a curbside collection program. However, on Wednesday council voted to defer any decisions to a later date and recommended the options be presented at the township level.

Councillors did agree action needs to be taken on waste collection throughout the county.

“(The options are) not the be all and the end all — they do help, yes,” Selwyn Mayor Sherry Senis said. “But there are certain things we can put into them and we have to make a real concentrated effort in reducing the waste that goes to the landfill.”

— with files from Tricia Mason/Global News Peterborough

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