Ottawa Must Plan for Garbage

Ottawa Must Plan for Garbage
Posted on March 7, 2016 | Harold Moore | Written on March 7, 2016
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Letter type:
Op-Ed

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Ottawa has had a long history of defering long term plans for solid waste disposal. Recent examples are the failed Plasco contract to use plasma gasification to destroy garbage and generate clean energy as well as the continuing contriversy over the Orgaworld contract. At last months council meeting city council voted to defer the development of a long ranage plan for municipal waste disposal.

Over a decade ago, the City of Ottawa decided to put all of its garbage “eggs" into the Plasco basket. Plasco was suppose to be the future of garbage disposal in Ottawa that would extend the life the city owned Trail Road landfill well into the future and hopefully eliminate the need to find a site for a new landfill. But that was not to be. The Plasco contract fell through when required investment for an operational facility could not be raised in the specified time.

So now Ottawa is back to where it was in the 1990’s with the Trail Road landfill filling up with garbage and the need for new landfill capacity looming much closer than was planned for. When the Trail Road landfill first opened in 1980 it was estimated to have 25 years of capacity and there was no urgent need for long range planning. However by the 1990’s it was realized that Trail Road would be at capacity in the early 2000’s and there was a push on to find a site for a new landfill. The selection process was very lengthy and in the end resulted in no new sites being found. This left the City of Ottawa (formerly the Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton) with no plan for garbage disposal when Trail Road reached capacity.  One of the first things the newly amalgamated City of Ottawa did in 2001 was to negotiate a secret deal with Waste Management of Canada Corporation to dispose of municipal waste in its privately owned landfill on Carp Road. This gave the city the time needed to get approval for the expansion of the Trail Road facility.  

So here we are again with an estimated 25 years of capacity left at Trail road and like last time the City feels there is lots of time to develop a plan for future garbage disposal. At a recent city council meeting, councillors voted with very little debate not to follow through with defining an alternative waste disposal plan for the future that will extend the life of Trail Road. Past experience shows that the 25 year window can close very quickly and planning for garbage disposal can be long and unsuccessful leading to a garbage crisis.

One reason the city may now feel no urgency to develop a plan for alternative garbage disposal, is the abundance of private landfill capacity in the region. As with the secret 2001 deal with Waste Management, the city may feel that they can always send garbage to private landfills to avoid any future crisis. This is very short sighted as it perpetuates garbage disposal in landfills and encourages private landfill operators to expand their operations and develop new facilities.

The City of Ottawa should be moving on a plan for alternative garbage disposal now and not wait for a time when they have to ship off their garbage to private landfills. Plasco was to be the savour that would extend Trail Road well past 2072 but after nearly 10 years focused solely on Plasco, these hopes were dashed and the city had to start over. Planning for garbage disposal is very complicated and expensive, often leading to dead ends. It is imperative that the city get on with developing a long range plan for garbage disposal before once again the Trail Road landfill is nearing capacity and the city needs to once again make secret deals with private landfill operators.

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