December 10, 2001

Hamilton solid waste master plan targets 65% diversion by 2008

A solid waste management master plan (SWMMP) presented to Hamilton, Ontario's City Council on December 5 contains 19 recommendations aimed at achieving a 65% diversion rate by 2008, based on 2000 waste generation rates.

The recommendations were developed and presented to the municipal government by a Public Advisory Committee (PAC) which has been working over the past 16 months with the City Council's Solid Waste Management Steering Committee. The Steering Committee made revisions to some of the PAC's recommendations and has recommended that the City Council's Committee of the Whole adopt them.

The SWMMP recommendations address guiding principles, the system itself, and provisions for sustainable development. The principles stress the need for Hamilton to maintain responsibility for its own solid wastes and to optimize the disposal capacity of its Glanbrook landfill to ensure that it receives only materials that cannot be diverted.

The recommendation for a 65% diversion rate by 2008 is recognized by the Steering Committee as an aggressive goal. It envisions achieving this target by means of 90% participation and materials capture rates through the plan's proposed waste diversion programs.

The plan proposes a three-component solid waste management system, comprising a state-of-the-art materials recycling facility (MRF) to divert conventional "dry" recyclables; a centralized composting facility to manage household organic and leaf/yard wastes; and a network of community recycling and re-use centres (CRCs). The establishment of CRCs (added to the original PAC recommendation by the Steering Committee) will provide both businesses and residents a means of recycling materials not suitable for collection in the city's curbside recycling program.

This system will require a three-stream collection structure for recyclables, organic wastes and residual garbage. This is also recommended, beginning with a pilot test in 2002 to ascertain and address issues related to implementation and operation, such as how to apply a three-stream collection program to multi-residential units and to Hamilton's urban core.

A new state-of-the-art energy from waste (EFW) facility is open to consideration as part of Hamilton's new waste management system. The PAC's recommendation, as amended by the Steering Committee, calls for continuous monitoring of diversion rates as the lead-up to a review of the need for an EFW facility in 2006.

The purpose of the review will be to determine if an EFW facility is needed in order to optimize the Glanbrook landfill's disposal capacity. Monitoring of diversion rates will help determine the likelihood of meeting the 2006 diversion target. This revision is intended to allow city staff to begin researching EFW technologies in 2002.

The PAC's recommendation calling for adoption of a user-pay system to fund waste management activities has been scaled down somewhat by the Steering Committee, which simply advises consideration of such a scheme. This takes into account the contentious nature of the issue of user-pay systems for waste collection services, and is intended to encourage investigation by city staff of whether such a system would benefit Hamilton's waste management program.

The city is also called upon to implement the components of the new waste management system as soon as possible, based on their diversion potential and operational viability. An implementation task force should be established to help city staff and politicians put the new system in place an monitor it. Opportunities should be sought to share waste diversion (recycling or organics composting) facilities with neighbouring municipalities. This would provide economies of scale through reduced collection and processing costs.

The PAC and Steering Committee counsel the city to take a cautious approach to public-private partnerships for waste management/diversion services. If pursued, the city should retain sufficient control and financial protection to enable it to continue delivering the service if the private partner becomes unable or unwilling to fulfill its obligations.

Another recommendation calls for the city to implement, sustain and support a comprehensive public education, awareness and marketing program throughout Hamilton, outlining the benefits and encouraging participation in 3R programs. Waste composition should be monitored regularly to provide feedback on the effectiveness of the overall waste management system and public communication program, says the PAC.

The system should also incorporate flexible enforcement systems which would become progressively rigorous as waste diversion systems come into operation. Enforcement systems must recognize the socio-economic and cultural diversity of the city in order to encourage high participation in waste diversion efforts.

Finally, Hamilton should continue lobbying the provincial and federal governments to do their utmost to support municipalities with waste management programs with appropriate legislation, funding and fiscal policy. This recommendation builds on the PAC advice and further calls on the city to ask the provincial government to enact and implement Bill 90 (Ontario's waste diversion legislation) as soon as possible.

Hamilton's current solid waste management system was developed during the 1970s and began operation in 1980. A centrepiece of the system has been the SWARU energy from waste facility, which started up in 1972 and is now approaching the end of its useful life. The plant handles about 40% of Hamilton's solid waste, while generating electricity and hot water used at the city's Woodward Avenue water/wastewater treatment plant.

In addition to the age of the system and advances in waste diversion technologies, a more critical factor driving Hamilton's need for a new system is the new federal air emission guideline which will come into effect in 2006. The SWARU facility will not be able to meet the guideline without prohibitively expensive changes to its air pollution control systems, and will be closed as a result.

Closure of the SWARU plant will result in the Glanbrook landfill reaching capacity within 15 years. Given the time and cost associated with siting a new landfill, "do nothing" is not an option for the city.

More information is available from Beth Goodger, manager of solid waste planning, City of Hamilton, 905/546-3916, E-mail, Web site

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