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Green Bin Program contaminated by funding issues

Green Bins being delivered

Green Bins being delivered

I got my Green Bin yesterday and I like it. A lot. The program sounds good too – from what I understand, the high temperatures achievable by the huge volume of our collective organic waste is going to make this a very efficient way of breaking down garbage. All kinds of stuff can be composted under these circumstances, including, for example, used kitty litter. Yay.

But, like many people, my enthusiasm for my green bin is being contaminated by all the controversy about how this program should be funded. The City’s Planning and Environment Committee has endorsed a proposal that the entire cost be paid by homeowners in the form of an annual user fee of $195 for garbage collection and recycling (up from $86).

First and foremost, I don’t like this stealthy approach to taxation. If you want to increase my taxes, then look me in the eye and tell me about it. Don’t start filching money out of my pocket for various extra fees and special levies and so on. A flat fee for a compulsory municipal service is just a sneaky form of taxation.

This all started a couple of years ago when Mayor Larry came up with the ridiculous idea of charging us all a $50 snow tax because it snowed a lot that year. Never mind that he’d squandered the budget surplus on his self-serving and short-sighted election promise of no tax hikes, leaving no contingency money for something as improbable as a snowy winter in Ottawa. Everything was all about ‘zero means zero’ that year, so in order to hold the ‘official’ tax increase at zero, he tried to sneak a special one-time snow levy per household past us.

I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. If Council is going to approve new programs, it should be incumbent upon them to figure out how to pay for them when they’re approving them, not months or years later when they’re implementing them. If that means higher property taxes, so be it. I am willing to pay higher taxes for worthwhile public programs. But I am absolutely opposed to being hit up for an extra $50 here and $68 a year there while politicians pretend they’re not hiking my taxes.

greenbin2Another thing. Why is the cost of the program being absorbed only by people with green bins? As I understand it, businesses, along with people who live in the country or in apartment buildings, would be exempted, on the grounds that they wouldn’t be using the program, and therefore not benefiting from it.

Huh? Aren’t they benefiting from the fact that the rest of us are using it? We need the Green Bin Program in order to divert more waste and extend the life of the landfill, which will save us all money in the long run.

I don’t see what special benefit I personally will derive from putting my organic waste in a bin on the curb. It’s a public benefit, not a personal one, therefore it should be a public expense.

Final point. I live alone. Why is this proposed fee being assessed on a per-household basis rather than a per-citizen basis? I generate about half as much waste as a two-person household…maybe a little more. The proposal will see me paying $195 per year for garbage collection and recycling. Yet someone who is married will pay half as much as me. Is it fair that I, a single person, should be subsidizing couples and families? No. It is not.

I don’t mind paying for the Green Bin Program, but the issues of paying for it should have been resolved long before the bins were distributed. To do both things simultaneously just pisses people off and makes them hostile towards the program itself, at exactly the time we’re being asked to embrace and commit to it. Personally, I’m going to separate the two issues and embrace the program. But lots of people aren’t and that’s a shame.

21 comments to Green Bin Program contaminated by funding issues

  • Manon

    Your mayor is obviously looking at how much Toronto taxpayers will reluctantly agree to pay in various municipal fees before they openly revolt. We are paying for garbage removal according to the size of the black bin we use — we have separate collection for the blue bin (recycling), green bin (food waste) and black bin (the rest). We pay over $150 per space per year for the privilege of parking in our own front yard; we pay double the licence plate renewal fee charged anywhere else in Ontario because we are so grateful to live in this congested city. We pay double the land transfer tax, and we pay a licence fee for every pet we own. Of course, our property taxes are not exactly low, and neither are the parking meters on the street ($2 per half-hour in most places). Yes, I am planning to leave Toronto within the next couple of years, as soon as my last child finishes high school. Between the high cost of living in the city and the fact we will soon be charged one way or another for the polluted air we breathe, it does stop making sense at some point. Oh, and the city still manages to waste so much taxpayers money that it has another shortfall this year. We are waiting with abated breath to see what new tax they are going to come up with to make it a bit more unliveable here. Ah, I feel better now that I got this off my chest!

  • Hey! That’s my house.

    I like the green bin too. What I like is that you can put your snotty kleenexes in it.

  • What an excellent and omniscient post on a very important topic. I live in London and could only wish for such a program to be in place to deconstruct for flaws. You have done a masterful job of that here with very valuable and valid insights. You have truly covered so many aspects of this topic I don’t even think I can expand.

    Like you, I too believe that it is a program worth paying extra taxes for to fund because of the long term and environmental benefits. You are bang on from the hit that single patron homes take to the fact that those not able to use the program won’t partake in funding it; like you said, how do those taking the time/energy/commitment to partake in the program benefit more than those that don’t?

    Thank-you for your comments I will be sure to follow the news regarding this issue going forward.

  • sassy

    I wonder if a householder who has a compost in their backyard could be exempted.

  • Great post! I totally agree.

  • I agree w/ Sassy. We have a backyard compost, so there are only a few things (pet waste, bones, etc) that we’d ever put in the bin. As a result, we would probably only put it curbside 1 time a month at most.

    Also, we (family of 4) already have eliminated most unnecessary garbage by recycling and composting. We put out a half-full garbage bag each week. I don’t see the City refunding me for putting out less..

  • XUP

    I don’t even see how this could be legal. It’s extortion. Have the city charged with extortion. If your phone company comes around and replaces your cell phone with a new cell phone because they’ve refigured their systems so your old cell phone is no good anymore and then sends you a bill a couple of months later charging you for the new phone, would that be legal?

  • Cara

    Those of us who already compost will still have to pay for the Green Bins. So unlike our rural neighbours who won’t pay for something they don’t use, we urban types who have been composting for years will have to fork over the money.
    What really bugs me is that this Green Bin programme has been in the works for quite some time and yet, it’s only after my bin has been delivered, I hear that the City is trying to figure out how it will be paid for. Sheesh.

  • Totally agree. I don’t even know if I’ll use it – I already compost and I don’t have pets, so there is little value for me – but I’ll be paying for it.

    City council is ridiculously bad – they keep adding surcharges to make up for tax shortfalls while still raising taxes. They don’t seem to be able to make decisions and take responsibility for them.

  • Nat


    We plan to keep the backyard composter going (Good for our plants) — do I get a rebate for keeping the amount of street side garbage I put out down? Can I return my bin for a rebate? (And am I expected to by those funny liner bags? for the indoor bins? What is up with that?)

  • Rand Paladeau

    I tried to use the green bin today when I ran out of containers to put my yard waste today, thought it would be a good idea as they are not going to be used till January so I could save the paper bag, they took the 4 containers of leaves, closed the lid on the green bin took the time to put a sticker on it to say I was not allowed to use it till January vs just emptying the leaves.
    Its seems fitting that it went like that as its mirrors the way that rest of program was rolled out

  • If a have not province like Nova Scotia can make it mandatory that you compost *all* organic waste and provide the service (green bins) to do that *everywhere* without user fees Ottawa certainly can.

    Great post!

  • Gillian

    I agree that they should figure out funding, concretely, much earlier.

  • Manon, you pay $150 to park on your own property? Really? How do they justify that?

    Robin, I was wondering if you’d recognize your green bin! Yours was the very first one I’d ever seen, so I peeked inside and took pictures when I was walking past your house last week. (Peeked inside your BIN and took pictures…not inside your house!)

    Thanks for dropping by Tee Bone, and for leaving a comment.

    Sassy, no, your backyard composter doesn’t exempt you from the Green Bin Program. I think a lot of long-time composters are annoyed by the fact that they’re now being handed a container, told it’s compulsory, and slapped with a fee.

    Thanks Meagan.

    Refashionista, you make a good point. User fees, by definition, should vary with usage. That’s one of the flaws with this flat-rate scheme. It’s combining the worst of both worlds.

    XUP, I see your point. But we elected these people and gave them permission to make these decisions on our behalf. I hope we collectively have the good sense to fire them next year.

    Cara, I agree. This council is notorious for lurching from one crisis to the next, and refusing to deal with things before they become problematic.

    Colette, I agree with you too, especially your last sentence, about council being unable to make decisions and take responsibility for them.

    Nat, nope, you can’t opt out. Well you can, but you still have to pay. As for the liners, I think they’re optional. They’ll just keep your bin cleaner.

    Rand, that’s funny. It’s like zero tolerance. Nobody’s allowed to think.

    Mudmama, it sounds like NS is way ahead of Ottawa on waste management. I wonder why that is? Got any theories?

    Gillian, no kidding. They’re sabotaging their own program by creating all this animosity towards it.

  • Only that Nova Scotia has NO PLACE to put waste. We rural dwellers are fighting Halifax’s bright idea of dumping treated sewage on our fields as “bio-solids” – can you imagine all the toxins like heavy metals that are not sterilized by heat???

  • My excitement over the new green bin program has faded slightly since the tax issue has come up. I expect to pay for the extra services but agree it is unfair to charge large families the same as a single person. It should have been decided long before the bins went out, after all, the program has been in the works for years. I expect there will be more surprises ahead. Do you think Larry will be charging us for the amount of bags we put out on the curb? Thanks for the reminder to separate the two issues. A good composting program was needed for Ottawa. We’ll see how it goes….

  • See, I didn’t know about all the Mayor Larry stuff until now. He seems like such a nice guy. But I hate taxes. And I’m still waiting on my green bin.

  • […] annoyed with the City with their suddenly unveiling of a user fee (thoughtfully discussed by Zoom over here). Especially this point (to which I say, YEAH SISTAH!): Why is the cost of the program being […]

  • I wanted to share this with you. Perhaps before you start filling that green bin.


    is what happened to my green bin (containing loose leaf tea and onions) between last Thursday (Nov. 12) and today (Nov. 16). Super great the raccoon didn’t get in through the lid, IT JUST ATE THROUGH THE BIN instead.

    We called the City, and they will be bringing us a new one (free of charge), but seriously, how many replacements am I going to need? Because whatever “tests” they put these things through, they obviously didn’t invite my friendly neighbourhood pest to give it a go.

    Apparently raccoons don’t like the smell of Vicks Vaporub. So, we shall see.

  • Nice article found your site searching in bing I think you could have taken a more neutral view.

  • This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free. It?s the old what goes around comes around routine.