Town of Hearst improves diversion and contain costs in a small municipal program

In 2016 the Town of Hearst was faced with the need to make a strategic change to address challenging waste management program realities:

  • Recycling had plateaued at roughly 157 MT per year
  • Equipment used to deliver the program was obsolete and costly to operate
  • Long-time municipal recycling program delivery partners were striking out in new directions to improve their diversion rates
  • The end date for their current garbage collection contract was fast approaching

The Town of Hearst is located on Highway 11, midway between North Bay and Thunder Bay, and roughly 900 kilometers north of Toronto.  Its location, while great for moose hunting, has made delivering a recycling program difficult. An entire day is needed to make a round trip to the closest MRF and back.

After much deliberation, the Town opted to transition from depot to curbside collection. This involved constructing a transfer station, purchasing an automated collection vehicle, and launching a cart-based recycling and garbage collection program that came on-stream in March 2018.

The Goal?

Increase the number of tonnes of recycling collected annually by 250 MT in a cost contained manner.

The result? 

A year after implementing curbside collection, the Town had collected 419 MT of recyclables, exceeding its goal, with a three-fold increase in its recycling rate. What’s more, the new system was projected to come in at a net cost of $498/MT, but again, the new system exceeded expectations coming in at $346/MT.

Key learnings

  • In building its own transfer station, Hearst gained greater flexibility to consolidate its tonnage and arrange for transport directly to the processing centre when a full load was available. The cost of this new infrastructure was offset by the reduction in the number of trips its collection vehicle made to the processing centre (a collection vehicle carries roughly 3 – 5 tonnes of recyclables per run, while a hauling company using a 53’ trailer can carry 14 – 17 tonnes per run).
  • The addition of a neighbouring municipality (Mattice) helped reduce costs and promoted a fuller utilization of the transfer station. Working with Mattice allowed Hearst to factor costs over an additional 10 tonnes per year.
  • Hearst secured carts through the CIF’s Cooperative Container Purchasing Program (CCPP), purchasing them with competitive rates without having to dedicate staff time tothe task. Residents then purchased carts from the Town, which further helped to reduce costs.

An Emerging Better Practice

Maintaining a traditional transfer stations is a costly undertaking that is often prohibitive for small municipalities with lower tonnages.

Northern Ontario communities are far-removed from processing centres, and long-distance hauling is time-consuming and expensive. For these locations, it is critical to stockpile materials and haul in large quantities, thereby reducing the number of trips required and the costs. Transfer stations are a vital feature needed to store the recyclables.

An innovative transfer station solution has been tested in Northern Ontario over the last several years, first with Cochrane, then with Temiskaming Shores and now with Hearst.

Measuring 40 by 80 feet of interior space, with steel shipping containers as the side walls, a concrete-block rear wall, and an asphalt floor extending three metres beyond the front of the building, this innovative transfer station allows room to compact and store recyclables in a clean and dry environment.

Next to the transfer station, an engineered loading ramp can be added by municipal staff using locally available materials. The ramp is best if built up next to a single lane that allows trucks to move forward while being loaded. The use of shipping containers as walls reduces the construction costs significantly. Interior LED lights can be installed on a timer to keep operational costs low.

These structures cost a fraction of the traditional model and meet the needs of smaller communities at a price point they can manage. For Hearst the cost was $162,500.

For more learnings, view CIF project 978 (report to be posted soon), “Hearst transition from depot to curbside recycling collection”. Visit the Cooperative Container Purchasing Program page (CCPP) to buy blue boxes, carts and bags at bulk rates negotiated by the CIF.