Site Selection

Site selection considers permits, size requirements, infrastructure, services, the environment and customer usability. Siting a new depot involves selecting potential locations, public consultations and economic assessments.

Selecting potential site locations

Convenience and accessibility is critical. The location needs to address available infrastructure, future growth, community impacts and many more requirements.

Accessibility and utilizing existing sites
  • Building on the idea of ‘one-stop shopping’, it is a better practice to locate a depot at or near frequently and easily accessed municipal facilities.

Municipalities often site depots at an existing municipal waste management facility to build on existing use and convenience and to potentially lessen the approvals process.

Siting depots at existing waste management facilities provides the following benefits:

  • The site is already operating under an ECA which can usually be amended to permit the new depot services.
  • The public is familiar with the location and purpose of the site and can easily transition to using a new depot.
  • Most landfills (open or closed) have ample space to accommodate the development and expansion of a depot as service needs and/or demands change.
  • For small quantity waste disposal, depots provide a safer alternative to allowing residential users access to the landfill tipping face.

Distance (less than ½ hr. drive time) and accessibility (gravel roads, mud, etc.) to an existing site are critical to maximizing residential participation.

Infrastructure needs and limitations
  • Access to utility services, road maintenance, heavy truck mobility and staff/customer safety will influence where the site is located.

Lack of available utilities, especially hydro, will influence the type of services provided and hours of operation. Depots that do not require weigh scales and can operate on a reduced winter schedule can manage without hydro. Diesel or solar powered compaction units can offer practical solutions in remote locations.

Road conditions and heavy vehicle access must also be considered. Gravel roads, spring flooding, poor winter access plus wear and tear by heavy transport trucks may create safety hazards and high maintenance expenses, reducing a proposed sites’ viability.

The geographic/topographic location may produce a poor design layout and inadequate infrastructure with the potential to compromise staff and user safety. Safety must always be a high priority during any site selection process.

Addressing environmental concerns
  • The key to increased public acceptance is to select a site that minimizes environmental impacts. Factors may include proximity to endangered or sensitive natural areas, storm-water runoff, water, land and air contamination.

Potential environmental concerns require solutions early in the process. Proximity to sensitive or protected areas, landscape and cultural landmarks, animal habitat, dust/noise impacts, etc. are all factors. An initial desktop study can help assess the physical qualities of proposed sites and surrounding areas to determine suitability. Prospective sites should be compared and qualitatively rated considering, without being limited to, the following issues:

  • Identifying surrounding land uses
  • Zoning restrictions
  • Proximity to sensitive land uses and environmental features
  • Review satellite/aerial photographs
  • Topographical maps and surveys to identify proximity to nearest receptors and hydro-geological conditions

Other potential environmental concerns are associated with storm-water runoff, litter and water/land contamination. Animal, vector, odour and other nuisances also need to be addressed. Creating an adequate buffer zone will help curtail many potential impacts.

Adequate time/funds must be budgeted to address the above concerns as part of the approvals process for any existing or new waste management facility.

Adaptability and planning for the future
  • Future changes in service level, materials requiring special handling and population growth are among many factors that must be anticipated during the site selection process.

The site must accommodate future changes in traffic and materials collected. Depot use frequently increases proportionally as the local population grows. Any site design must plan for increases in traffic flow and have spare capacity to accommodate extra bulking and bin activities as well as snow handling.

At the same time, as new diversion programs are implemented, the depot must be able to accommodate changes in collection, storage and transportation. Materials, such as mattresses, carpets, bulky hard plastics, textiles and construction, renovation, demolition (CRD) waste, that typically have been sent for disposal, may require separate diversion/collection in the future.

Public Consultation

One of the best ways to optimize a design that meets the needs of the public is to consult them to learn what they want.

Benefits of public consultation
  • Gaining input and feedback about what is desired by and concerning to the public and their willingness to pay provides an opportunity to explore new policy and program ideas and generate support and buy-in for the project.

While public consultation is often viewed as an extra, unnecessary step, it can help reveal potential costly problems that can be mitigated early, identify unexpected public needs/desires and build public support and buy-in for the project. Consultation can explore support levels for enhanced waste diversion policies/programs (e.g. clear bags, mattress recycling) and feedback on willingness to pay for these services. The process can identify operational features, such as days/hours of operation or depot layout. Feedback can be used to design more effective services and supporting policies to encourage higher participation rates and overall community acceptance.

Involving the public regularly often avoids negative press, reduces fears and circulates accurate information. The better practice to manage the media is to include them in public consultations and make sure they have timely, accurate information. Similarly, local Council needs to be kept informed and provided with consistent, accurate, informed answers to media/public questions and concerns.

Approach and better practices
  • No matter how extensive the community or size/complexity of the project, residents should have an opportunity to stay informed and provide input/feedback through on-line and in-house surveys and website postings.

Consultation must include detailed information about the intended project, conceptual site plans, general results of project studies and discussion on operational matters (e.g. operating hours, services provided and travel distance). Residents must have an opportunity to speak with staff and/or technical experts about issues and concerns and be provided a means to submit input and feedback.

Common approaches involve combinations of:

  • Open houses with display information and presentations for live feedback
  • Press releases in local newspapers and other printed media (fliers at municipal facilities)
  • Social media, twitter and email
  • Notices in tax or utility bills and information posted on municipal websites
  • Online surveys
  • Road signage and posters in public buildings

How extensive the consultation process will be varies with the size/complexity of the community and the project. Some better practices include:

  • Develop a dedicated project webpage to regularly update information and receive feedback
  • Conduct open house(s) at convenient, well known facilities in each major community in the impacted area. Residents should be able reach the open house within a reasonable amount of time. The open house should be advertised through a variety of media
  • Publicize open houses well in advance (1 month, 2 weeks and 1 week before)
  • Hold open houses in the evenings to allow people to attend after work. Residents should be able to speak with knowledgeable staff and technical experts. Opportunities to provide/record feedback must be available and can involve surveys, comment sheets, small group “kitchen table” discussions and placing post it notes on information/poster boards. Provide refreshments in the center of the room to encourage people to interact
  • Establish voluntary subscription lists to provide email updates at key project milestones.  Open house attendees can be asked to sign in and provide a voluntary email, requested on the survey, a sign up posting on the dedicated website and/or at municipal facilities
  • On-line surveys can be done easily and promoted in local newspaper and radio advertisements. Printed surveys can be made available at municipal facilities, libraries etc.
  • If not conducting an open house, consider setting up an information table at a well-attended local event, such as a fall fair, farmers market, hockey game, etc.
  • Provide regular articles in local newspapers with information about the depot and supporting programs and policies. Explain waste diversion goals and actions and how they tie in with Provincial directives

Take opportunities to explore the community appetite for introducing new policies to drive waste diversion in the community.

Economic Assessment

Estimating site construction and operating costs is influenced by the size, services provided, site design and features.  During the planning stages, include funds for engineering designs, geotechnical testing, possible environmental assessments and public consultation. Other costs may include provisions for hydro, potable water/sewage/storm-water management, land acquisition and associated legal/real-estate fees.

Acquiring Planning Approvals
  • The cost of approvals will depend on the depot location and complexity. Locating the depot at an existing waste facility will save significant time and money.

The planning/approvals process can be extensive and lengthy especially for depots not located at an existing waste management facility. Approval costs need to be addressed as part of the economic assessment, with contingencies built in for unexpected requirements. The CIF Depot Costing Model allocates $15,000 towards obtaining an ECA approval.

The key approval governing the operations of a depot is the ECA, which is established under the Ontario Regulation 255/11. Applications for ECA are made under regulations prescribing the necessary requirements. At a minimum, the applicant must provide:

  • Site location
  • Site plan
  • Landscape plan
  • Identification of nearby groundwater wells
  • Storm-water Management Plan
  • Leachate Management Plan
  • Location and proximity of site neighbours
  • Location of any sites of cultural, historical or environmental significance (e.g. wetlands)
  • Potential for nuisances associated with odour and vectors (including an Odour Management Plan)
  • Access to the site, potential traffic effects, and road restrictions

The MOECC has prepared a Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval. There are currently 6 stages required to obtain an ECA and time to complete all requirements varies widely between municipalities. The better practice is to begin work on approvals very early in the depot design process and assume at least 1 year for completion of the approvals process.

Preliminary evaluation of design, construction and operation costs
  • Conduct a preliminary economic evaluation of design and construction costs to help identify necessary and desired features and help prepare to evaluate contractor bids.

Conducting a preliminary economic evaluation of site design/construction costs is a better practice that helps determine what features are necessary and what specifications to include in a tender/RFP. In addition to major capital elements, don’t forget site preparation costs including:

  • Grubbing/clearing
  • Grading and drainage (including cut and fill requirements)
  • Providing hydro service
  • Providing access to potable water, non-potable water, sewage management
  • Storm-water and snow management system requirements
  • Infrastructure improvements (e.g. road access and internal traffic management)

Use the CIF Depot Costing Model to assist in capital and operating design/cost planning. CIF staff are available to assist municipalities using the model.

Explore multi-municipal cooperation and partnerships
  • Cooperating with neighbouring municipalities or private sector operators creates opportunities to share costs and reduce risks for all parties. Cooperation allows for more complex and costly waste management equipment, services and/or materials managed.

Exploring cooperation with other municipalities is considered a better practice. Some of the advantages/disadvantages of cooperation are presented below.


  • Cost sharing can result in reduced costs for all
  • Potential to explore new technologies not otherwise available due to poor economies of scale
  • Potential to organize more efficient transportation network
  • Potential to afford more expertise (i.e. solid waste engineer, recycling coordinator) and better meet regulatory requirements
  • Potential environmental benefits (reduced number of vehicles on the road, greenhouse gases, community impacts)
  • Potential for new funding and assistance through regional support programs


  • Potential loss of control or flexibility over waste diversion/management initiatives
  • Potential for uneven playing field (if one community does not contribute equal amounts of resources or payment)
  • Potential for increased bureaucracy and prolonged decision-making
  • May not share same views about level of risks and costs to be assumed

Even if cooperation isn’t immediately viable, it’s prudent to expand the geographic boundaries covered under the ECA regardless. Planning ahead could reduce the time, hassle and costs of amending an ECA in the future.

Many cooperation examples exist for MHSW in which a larger community operates a permanent depot and provides service to smaller communities for a fee. These include the Town Parry Sound, the Town of North Bay, Peterborough County, the Town of Renfrew, City of Sudbury, and City of Thunder Bay.

Communities may share other services based on a suitable financial arrangement. For example, Curve Lake First Nation, has established a working relationship with Peterborough County, enabling Band members to access a range of services at County depots, including the MHSW depot and drop off bins for metals, wood and bulky waste. Curve Lake pays a small fee every time a Band member uses the depot.