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Saint John's new waste program keeps much more garbage than expected out of landfill

Waste Wise provides a curbside recycling service to homes and some apartments, and also puts a limit on how much garbage a household can put out for collection each week. (City of Saint John  - image credit)
Waste Wise provides a curbside recycling service to homes and some apartments, and also puts a limit on how much garbage a household can put out for collection each week. (City of Saint John - image credit)

The first-year results of Saint John's Waste Wise program are in, and city councillors are celebrating the waste management program as a resounding success.

Waste Wise introduced a new curbside recycling program and set a 15 per cent target for reducing garbage taken to the landfill.

"The tonnage of garbage collected is down by 37% on average, over double the target, and we are seeing substantially higher rates of recycling and composting," said a staff report to council on Monday night.

The program saved $260,000 in tipping fees for landfill use and made $238,000 in bag-bag revenue, said public works director Tim O'Reilly, who gave a presentation on the Waste Wise results.

Coun. Gary Sullivan praised both the program but also engaged Saint Johners for it's success.
Coun. Gary Sullivan praised both the program but also engaged Saint Johners for it's success.

Coun. Gary Sullivan praised the program and the residents who've supported it. (City of Saint John)

"Overall it's about $500,000 net savings just in one year."

Half of that is going to Waste Wise operating costs, O'Reilly said, and the other half is going toward repaying the $3 million needed to get the program up and running.

Waste Wise began in October 2022 and provides curbside recycling service to homes and some apartments, while capping the amount of waste a household can put to the curb each week.

"In just one year since the implementation of Waste Wise, residents of Saint John have prevented an estimated 300,000 bags of garbage from entering our landfill," O'Reilly said.

The results are more impressive when expressed in terms of tonnage, he suggested

"It's about 1,600 tonnes in the first year that people put into the recycling stream and just for perspective our reduction in garbage was about 4,000 tonnes,"

O'Reilly attributed the success of Waste Wise to putting caps on the number of garbage bags residents can put out for pickup.

"With the caps in place on garbage people can put out it incentivized people to use that program more than before," he said.

Thirteen per cent of total solid waste is being diverted to recycling, but how this compares to previous years isn't possible. In an email Tuesday, the city said recycling rates before Waste Wise aren't known.

Praise for residents

Council members praised the growth of the Waste Wise program and its aim for affordability by allowing community centres in the city to distribute bag tags at no charge to its medical waste support program.

Coun. Gary Sullivan also had praise for residents.

"I knew we were a success before I saw these numbers, when on social media we've got a ton of Waste Wise ambassadors," Counc. Sullivan said.

"'You know what's going on with garbage this week?' Somebody screams and a few people pile on and then somebody that has nothing to do with the city says 'Here's the link. Yes, you can put an extra bag out this week for Christmas'… and it's not city employees or staff doing it - it's city residents who follow it and are engaged in it."

Sullivan also pointed out that the recycling bins provided by the city often get blown far from properties on windy nights.

"I had somebody email me today and lament the old big bins that we had to drive to because the bins wouldn't blow away," he said.

Daytime collection may be considered

O'Reilly said recycling could potentially start being collected in the daytime to address problems caused by wind, but he made no promises.

"It's certainly a challenge for our residents because we do the collection at night to collect the totes right after the collection," O'Reilly said.

"But they are reviewing whether that's going to continue on at night or not. It could go over into the daytime"

O'Reilly also said residents are free to use other containers that can stand the wind.

"If they have a tough work container or something they want to use, they can certainly use those in place of the totes. As long as they're liftable, and we can dump them in the trucks it doesn't matter what people use."