A Major Ontario Municipality’s Cost Benefit Analysis for Curbside Waste Collection Policies

As part of ongoing efforts to increase residential waste diversion and considering the need to establish clearly defined service levels in its next collection contract, a large Ontario municipality recently completed a cost benefit analysis (CBA), retaining Dillon Consulting Limited (Dillon) through a competitive procurement process to complete the study.

The goal was to identify the most effective curbside waste collection policy(ies) to help increase waste diversion and reduce the amount of residential garbage sent to landfill, while also considering implementation ease and cost of each policy.

Jurisdictional scan

The study included a jurisdictional scan, gathering waste, recycling and organics collection program data and information from several Canadian municipalities on five policy options:

  1. Clear bags for garbage;
  2. Pay as you throw;
  3. Containerized garbage collection (e.g. automated cart);
  4. Garbage bag/container limits; and
  5. Material bans.

Two municipalities were contacted for each policy. Dillon then evaluated the responses based on impacts of four key criteria:

  • Economic (capital and operating);
  • Environmental (waste diversion from landfill, greenhouse gas emissions and contamination of recycling or organics stream);
  • Social (impact to residents of single-family households); and
  • Ease of Implementation (strategy and decision making, administrative).

Each of the four criterion groups was assigned a weighted scoring value. The minimum potential score for each criterion was zero and the maximum potential score was 2.0. The CBA produced scores for each jurisdiction that were aggregated for each policy and are summarized in the table below.

Table: Summary of Findings

Clear BagsPay as You ThrowContainer CollectionBag/LimitsMaterial Bans

Based on the highest CBA evaluation scoring results, the curbside collection policies with the highest scores were:

  1. Clear bags (for garbage collection) with enforcement at 1.56, and
  2. Material bans (recyclables and/or organics) with enforcement at 1.46.

Results from the evaluation analysis process showed these two policies as having the potential greatest impact to benefit curbside waste diversion for the municipality.

“This work will be used to develop a detailed business case on the different options, that we will consult with residents on before bringing a report to our Council.”

Benefits of the top two options

The analysis identified clear benefits for the top two options: 

1. Clear bags (for garbage collection) with enforcement (this is key to success):

  • Potential increase in recyclables, organics and leaf and lard waste (LYW) diversion (potential 24% increase in waste diverted);
  • Ensures participation by everyone, no free riders;
  • Effective enforcement of curbside bans of organics, recyclables, electronics, paint, oil, batteries, or any other material(s) that a municipality may have banned from garbage collection;
  • Increased worker safety because waste collector can see the contents of bags and avoid hazardous items (e.g., sharp glass, needles, sharp tins, etc.); and
  • Can be enforced by the waste collector.

2. Material bans (recyclables and/or organics) with enforcement (this is key to success):

  • Potential increase in diversion of recyclables (up to 8%)
  • Potential average increase of 20-25% in all collected organics (green bin and LYW tonnes combined);
  • Increases participation and set-out rates in recycling, organics and LYW diversion;
  • Organics and recycling bans increase diversion due to proper sorting and separation of material into the appropriate collection streams; and
  • Some residents are already familiar with bans such as electronics and hazardous household waste in the curbside program, making smoother transition to implementation and acceptance of policy.

Here’s what’s happening next

As a next step, Dillon will develop an integrated curbside waste collection model using the information obtained in the CBA and apply to the municipality to identify the most appropriate collection approach for consideration in the next curbside tender, taking into account the potential transition of the recycling programs.

A program manager with the municipality highlights the importance of this work in its comment, noting that “the opportunity to implement different collection approaches or make program changes comes along only once every seven or so years, so we want to explore the different options available to increase curbside waste diversion so that we can integrate any changes into the next curbside tender. The work done by Dillon has allowed us to evaluate a number of different options that are under consideration. This work will be used to develop a detailed business case on the different options, that we will consult with residents on before bringing a report to our Council, who will ultimately determine the service levels for the next curbside collection contract.”

For more information

Contact CIF staff or Lori Andrews at Dillon.