My first two terms in office have been somewhat polar opposites when it comes to waste management. From 2010-2014, the City moved to bi-weekly garbage collection, expanded what was accepted in the blue box, introduced the green bins in schools program, expanded the availability and collection of the green bin and extended the life of the landfill as a result. On the Plasco front, we unfortunately saw the failure of that project, culminating with its official demise in December 2014. During the 2014-18 term of Council, all was quiet on the garbage front. The only change of any significance was the settlement of the Orgaworld arbitration and the subsequent addition of plastic bags to the green bin.
During this term of Council, we will be discussing everything there is to discuss when it comes to waste management. Last month, we approved the roadmap for our Solid Waste Master Plan review. This will be a two-year review and the plan is to cover all aspects of waste from how you acquire it and how the City collects it to how we can divert more and how we process the rest. The last thing I want to look at is a new landfill.
When it comes to the existing landfill; that is something that works to our advantage. The current lifespan is set at 2042. I have absolutely zero interest in scouting locations for a new one. That means we need to consider stronger waste diversion. We also need to consider alternatives to the landfill. Where do we go with the green bin program when the contract ends in 2030? Is there a viable waste-to-energy solution that does not cost the City $300M and double your garbage collection fee? Can we make it easier for residents to recycle and can we reduce the amount of waste you actually end up with? These are just some of the questions we want to answer in the next two years.
I am very much looking forward to this review. We will have a comprehensive public consultation component and I hope you will get involved. There are few issues which elicit more opinions than garbage collection. I hope we can channel that interest and come up with a way forward that will help serve the City and its residents for the next 30-50 years.
Bottled Water in City Facilities
Another matter discussed at the Environment Committee last month was the idea of banning the sale of bottled water in City-owned facilities. This issue is almost less about plastic bottles and more about the quality of the water that the City produces. It is routinely the best rated water in the country.
At the moment, the City has a sponsorship agreement with Coca-Cola to sell beverages in City facilities. Of course, this includes bottled water. To end the contract would cost upwards of $700,000. We will not be doing that. However, Council approved a motion that will have staff look at the next contract and how that could be arranged to limit the amount of single use plastics and promote City water.
There is much to consider when doing this. Some believe you can simply ban all plastics and your problems are solved. That simply is not true. There are accessibility realities that we must consider. This is why we did not implement a ban immediately. We must consider all aspects of this and bring forward a plan that improves the situation without creating new problems.
Climate Emergency Declaration
Like with many issues recently, this was another issue that came through the Committee that I Chair that had some significant misinformation surrounding it. I have never been too interested in posturing, pandering and grandstanding. When votes of that nature come forward, I do not support them. With that in mind, it was important to ensure that any discussion about a “climate emergency” was not solely for political gain or to give the appearance of something. As I said, I could never support such a baseless declaration.
My focus remains on what is best for the City and what is best for the residents of it. I bring that mentality to my every day job as Councillor and I certainly bring it to my role as Chair of the Environment Committee. I am not interesting in playing political games and I cannot worry about the motives of my colleagues. What I can do is ensure that anything that comes through Environment Committee is meaningful and keeps all residents in mind.
One of the biggest challenges for our Committee in recent years has been direction. We have had many items on the go but no clear path forward. I alluded to this earlier on the waste management file over the last four years. We are trying to change that this term. I believe the climate emergency motion from Councillor Shawn Menard can help in that regard. The recommendations contained within the report focus on the Air Quality & Climate Change Master Plan as well as Energy Evolution. These are previously identified priorities for the City of Ottawa. It also recommends a Council Sponsors Group and a climate resiliency plan, something staff have already committed to.
As Chair of the Environment Committee, I will have direct oversight for how any of the recommendations move forward and I will be taking a leadership role on all matters that fall under the jurisdiction of that Committee. This initiative does not take funds from general revenues. As approved by Council, we will start with $500,000 from the Hydro Ottawa surplus, which comes from return on investments. This is above and beyond the $20M surplus the City receives annually.
The initiatives that comes from this will be implemented with BOTH the environment and the taxpayer in mind. We have many examples of projects that reduced the long term operating costs of the City of Ottawa all the while being better for the environment. Gone are the days where being green meant spending more money. Today, we are focused on energy efficiency and waste diversion and other environmental initiatives that will save money rather than require larger budgets.
At the end of the day, I am elected to be considerate of how we spend your money. We also have a responsibility to be efficient environmentally as well as economically. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive and that is why I support the climate emergency motion. For me, it was not about the declaration. It was about the substance of the motion and the ability to focus on projects that are smart for the City and for the residents who live here.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Rideau-Goulbourn issues, please visit RideauGoulbourn.ca.