There was a heated debate yesterday at city council over the above diagram. Heated, in as much as somnolence can be thought of as hot. Like, a nice warm afternoon nap under a cozy duvet in the middle of July with the white scorching sunlight blistering through the window.
What we’re looking at here is part of the city manager’s 2016 budget presentation to the Executive Committee. The rate supported budget, more specifically. The solid waste budget, more specifically still.
This particular graphic shows the estimated diversion rate of a single family household in Toronto. The big bin on the left breaks down the percentage of household waste into categories. 38% for both green bin organic waste and straight to the landfill garbage. 15% recycling, 3% yard waste, 2% electronic waste, 1% household hazardous waste. Then there’s the 3% ‘other’ which, if not any of the above, if not even electronic or household hazardous waste, I have to ask, What the fuck is it?! I mean, am I being too squeamish? Just what other kinds of stuff are people tossing out to the curb?
On the right side of the top photo are the 4 sizes of black, straight-to-landfill (in theory) garbage bins households can opt for, the cost for which rises, the bigger you go, and not proportionately so. For good reason. This is the type of waste we should be minimizing, diverting away from. It’s expensive to deal with. It’s environmentally problematic. It’s largely unnecessary waste, profligate, if you will. Wasteful waste.
So owners of the bigger bins pay a lot more, perhaps not on the immediate face of it but through hugely different rebate rates, ranging from a 96% rebate on small bins to just 24% on the extra-large ones. That meant, this year, people using the small garbage bin paid $10.63 a year to have their garbage collected while anyone insisting on the extra-large black bins got dinged $343.60 for the same service. Unfair! as some claimed? No. It’s a financial incentive, a nudge, to use the parlance of the times, for people to stop loading up with the garbage garbage, the garbage that’s most costly for the city to deal with.
Now here’s the kicker. Those 4 black bins in the diagram at the top of the page show an interesting, pertinent and enraging thing. Aside from a statistical flip-flop between the medium sized bin owners and their small bin counterparts, the bigger the bin, the less actual garbage garbage goes into them. That is, the bigger the bin, the less recycling, the less separating of waste there is.
According to city staff, on average, extra-large black bins are filled with 77% of crap that could be tossed elsewhere, the blue bins, the green bins, etc. Over 3/4s of the average extra-large black bin consists of stuff that shouldn’t be there! If it weren’t, those people could get smaller black bins and pay less to have them picked up.
Yet some people find the price disparity outrageous! Some outraged city councillors put their names to misleading and misinformed op-ed pieces in local rags, indignant at what they already pay, and now further incensed of a proposed 3% increase in 2016.
Property taxes are meant to cover costs for essential city services, such as police, fire fighting, public works, water supply and sewer services. This proposed garbage tax increase is not only regressive by punishing low- and middle-income families, it targets residential property owners who are doing an excellent job in exceeding the city’s waste diversion rates.
So says Councillor Cesar Palacio. Except that it doesn’t.
Earlier in the article, Councillor Palacio claimed the city was thinking of doing away with the garbage bin rebate subsidies. That doesn’t appear to be true. Budget Chief Gary Crawford suggested that they could ditch the subsidy on just extra-large bins. You know, the ones owned by people who, in fact, weren’t ‘doing an excellent job in exceeding the city’s waste diversion rates.’ Just the opposite. People who could save themselves all that money by taking a little time to sort through their shit and put it in the right bin rather than dump it all in the biggest one they have and let somebody else do it for them.
Actually, no. Let’s call it what it really is when you have the option to do the right thing that comes with an added bonus of saving you money but you choose to do otherwise, taking the easiest path of least resistance and contribution. A misuser fee.
Shame on any councillor who actively pushes against the application of this kind of levy.
— self-righteously submitted by Cityslikr