Better Practices – Are They Actually Improving Our Programs? Municipalities Weigh In

“Better practice.” It’s well known phrase and your ears probably perk up every time a new idea is framed in these terms. And you may wonder – did that idea ever get implemented? Did it work, was it worth the cost and effort and where can I find out?

The CIF Working Groups have got you covered!

Established Best Practices, such as those promoted by RPRA, have been guiding Blue Box programming in Ontario since they were first published. However, the Blue Box program is evolving with ongoing investments in new approaches and new equipment, plus improved policies and by-laws to support the changes.

Through trial and error, municipalities have learned what works and what doesn’t. From the front line, municipal staff are monitoring new ideas and approaches as they’re implemented – and while the new approaches may not yet be sanctioned as best practices, they are building toward them. In short, we’re observing emerging better practices (EBP).

There’s a wealth of data on these practices, from municipal projects and from joint CIF funded initiatives. And there is a need to consolidate and evaluate findings from the investment: and the CIF working groups are doing just that.

As we plan for a potential transition to Full Producer Responsibility (FPR), EBP are more important than ever. Municipal staff need to know what tools are most important to ensure their programs run cost effectively. It’s equally important to ensure the cost of the tools is included in municipal budgets, so they’re covered if and when rate negotiations begin.

First up: Emerging Best Practices in Multi-Res

CIF’s Multi-Res Working Group (MRWG) is first up to the plate to supply you with answers. Building on the success of last year’s P&E gallery which consolidates tested, royalty-free P&E artwork, the MRWG is now developing an EBP component under its hub on the CIF website.

The Multi-Res EBP component will feature guidance, links to further reading, and cost benefit data (where available) on existing and new strategies aimed at improving blue box programs.

You’ll gain access to research on EBP in four multi-res areas:

  1. General management
  2. Operations
  3. Promotion & education, and
  4. By-law & enforcement

We’ll update the hub frequently as new resources come online with results from CIF funded projects, and discoveries from municipalities across the province. Read the inaugural post

Preview EBPs currently under MRWG review

Using On-Board Truck Scales and RFID technology in Region of Peel to automate the tracking individual building building performance. Source:

On-board scales – are they a must have?

Peel Region installed front-end and cart RFID tags at over 700 multi-res locations, generating a truckful of data on recovery rates and performance that can inform next steps for the program and individual buildings. With this, Peel was able to:

  1. Benchmark its average multi-res diversion rate at 19%
  2. Identify buildings that underperform,
  3. Conduct trend analysis on average per building set out
  4. Strategize on P&E, infrastructure and enforcement needs

Key learning? Not all multi-res sites are poor performers.

This study highlighted an important correlation between building characteristics and performance. “The data suggests that condominiums perform better than rental buildings, which is important for our long-term planning and budgeting”, according to Region of Peel staff. “We now know we don’t need to spend the same amount on P&E for every building so we can allocate that spend elsewhere or reduce program costs.“

For details on planning, implementation and program costs: CIF Report #328

Curotto Cans – a contamination abatement tool?

“But we can’t monitor performance when collection is automated because we can’t see what’s going into the truck!”

Ignoring the word “can’t” and adding a strategic research component, the City of Guelph is currently piloting the use of a Curotto Can removable truck attachment to monitor performance with automated collection.

The Curotto Can is an ingenious piece of technology that we’re watching closely – see it in action! (Source: Curotto Can)

Benefits? What’s so great about that?

  • It allows drivers to monitor materials as they are tipped into the truck so drivers can report on problems and enable timely follow-up with the building or household responsible for setting out unwanted materials. This provides Blue Box operators with  traceability that has not been possible with cart-based programs.
  • When considering processing alternatives for highly contaminated recyclables such as a mixed waste processing, do not assume for example, that all multi-res tonnage should be diverted to alternative processing sites. The Peel study shows that not all sites perform the same and the Curotto Can allows operators to assess exactly which sites are poor performers and/or have highly contaminated materials.

Guelph’s Curotto Can hardware (two trucks) and RFID software is budgeted at $159,340 for the Blue Box portion of the project. Data collection will allow for targeted P&E specific to the problems observed, and customized enforcement activities. With its planned program expansion, Guelph expects to increase diversion while containing costs.

Inspired to contribute?

Add your voice, data and experience to the EBP and help push the guidelines to full-on Better Practices! Contact Jessica Landry.