Isn’t it good for landfills to have food waste and other organics to help break down other wastes?

    No, they are not good to just bury in a landfill. We hear this question a lot! Think about how you use your backyard composter. You throw in organics which are exposed to oxygen and then later, after decomposing, you return it to your gardens as the compost supplies many nutrients.

    It’s a myth though that organics are good for landfills. All waste in a landfill harms the environment – soil, waterways and the air are all affected. Once organics like apple cores, orange peels and other food wastes go into the landfill they start to decompose under the earth and are starved of oxygen. As they decompose they create carbon dioxide and methane gases which build up, and eventually release into the atmosphere. These gases are known to cause climate change. Even though the items decompose into soil within the landfill, the new soil made cannot be used. Put them in the green bin and they will be brought to a special processing facility to be turned into compost, the nutrients are saved and can be used in agricultural fields or gardens.

    The non-organic wastes (items containing metal or plastics) can contain harsh metals or petroleums that can leach into surrounding soils and waterways affecting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

    What is a waste diversion rate?

    The waste diversion rate is measured by adding up the total quantity (usually measured by kilograms or tonnes) all of the waste streams/types – garbage + recycling + organics, etc. – managed. This total becomes the denominator in the equation to calculate the diversion rate. Next, you add up the quantity that was sent for recycling or composting, basically all of the tonnes of recyclables and organics that was diverted (i.e., not sent) from landfill. This becomes the numerator in the equation. To calculate the rate in percentage terms, the total quantity of waste diverted (numerator) is divided by the total quantity of waste managed (denominator). For example: All waste managed equals 40,000 tonnes, of that 40,000 tonnes, 25,000 was sent for recycling and composting.  The diversion rate is 25,000 divided by 40,000 equals a 62.5 per cent diversion rate.

    Why does waste diversion matter?

    Waste diversion means capturing certain items that can be reused, recycled or composted instead of thrown into a landfill. Garbage containing recyclables or organics that is thrown into a landfill, is a lost opportunity. Waste materials that are sorted retain their value and can be recycled into new products, saving valuable resources, energy and money. Diverting materials like metal, organic waste, electronic and hazardous waste also helps to protect our environment from contaminated run-off that is known as toxic leachate, and prevents the release of carbon dioxide and methane gases into the air.

    Why are we talking about this now?

    The City has discussing the importance of waste diversion for several years. Most recently the City reached its goal to divert 60 per cent of residential waste from landfill by 2018.  The goal was achieved three years early in 2015.  However, the diversion rate has flatlined, but we’ve got a goal of 65 per cent waste diversion to reach by 2025.  The City has implemented a number of diversion programs to send less waste to landfill.  And although residents are doing great, we can do better to capture more recyclables, organics and other divertible items from the garbage sent to landfill.  New strategies to manage waste better to reach 65 per cent waste diversion by 2025 are needed.

    Where did the 65 per cent waste diversion goal come from?

    In 2015, City Council set a long range goal of reaching 65 per cent waste diversion by 2025.

    Is reaching 65 per cent waste diversion possible?

    Absolutely! Based on data collected from waste composition audits, the City could achieve a 76 per cent waste diversion rate.

    What is a waste composition audit?

    A waste composition audit looks at the make-up or composition of the items in the garbage, recycling and organic streams. This audit helps the City understand improvements that are necessary. It also tells the City how well residents are doing to divert as much waste as possible.

    Why isn’t Kingston reaching the 65 per cent goal rate or the possible 76 per cent waste diversion rate?

    We’re not entirely sure. But here’s what we know:

    • Generally, it is always simpler to just throw all waste items into one bag. It was the way of life for a long time.
    • The City’s current alternating blue/grey box recycling schedule can be confusing.
    • Some residents don't enjoy using the green bin (i.e. they think it's gross or worry it will attract pests).

    One thing is for sure, certain items like recyclables and organics are not ending up in recycling boxes or green bins as intended or as desired by the City. The recycling and green bin programs are completely voluntary today, meaning that residents are not required to use the diversion programs. As part of this process, we’re hoping to understand the barriers for people to use or participate in the diversion programs.  Basically we want to learn what needs to be implemented or changed to get everyone using recycling boxes and green bins on each collection day – making sure waste ends up in the right place.