For months now, Niagara Falls has been preparing to leave the Regional waste management system, preferring instead to directly provide the service to its residents. This all began in October, when the City began to explore whether they can decide their baseline level of service.
In 1995, Niagara Falls passed a resolution supporting the transfer of jurisdiction to the Region for waste management, collection and disposal. In October 2019, regional councilors voted 19-8 in favour of changing the Region’s policy regarding garbage collection, hoping it will encourage residents to do a better job of keeping organic waste out of garbage cans. Starting October 2020, two garbage containers will be collected at the curbside every other week — instead of one container being picked up weekly. Recycling and organic waste will still be collected each week.
However, the City of Niagara Falls now wants to formally request Niagara Region to allow it to opt out of the Region’s waste-management umbrella, allowing the city to directly provide the service to its residents. In a report that went before council, city staff said an in-house legal review concluded waste-collection service is “enshrined” in the Regional Municipalities’ Act and Municipal Act as a responsibility of the Niagara Region, therefore the service cannot “straightforwardly” be opted out of by the city.
Niagara Falls City council member, (Coun.) Victor Pietrangelo said his two main issues are pricing and service.
“This (issue), to me, does not have to do with only achieving every week garbage, it has to do with price and it has to do with innovative ways of recycling and keeping more recyclables and organics out of the landfill. We just believe that we can do a better job for a better price.”
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati agrees with the council’s concerns.
“Council is very concerned about the idea of cutting garbage service in half and yet the price is going up 35 per cent (over the next three years). The other part they’re very concerned about is the fact that there’s no innovation.”
A region public works report, presented to regional councillors on Wednesday March 10, recommends they reject the city’s request citing increased costs and reduced recycling program effectiveness as Diodati and Coun. Victor Pietrangelo have claimed their municipality can collect garbage and recycling cheaper and better than the Region.
“We believe that there’s something to be gained for the city and the Region with further dialogue,” said Diodati ahead of a meeting on Tuesday, March 10. “We are working toward a solution which could potentially involve a compromise. We’re not dug in and oppositional.”
The impact of Niagara Falls leaving the regional waste management system and being allowed to develop their own will be felt by residents outside of Niagara Falls, who will have to pay more for waste management and recycling. The report, which recommends the Regional council reject the request from Niagara Falls to leave the region wide waste management system, says the increased cost “is attributable to the sharing of Niagara Falls’ portion of costs in the amount of approximately $2.1 million for the waste management programs,” among the other 11 municipalities.
The cost of waste management services in Niagara under the new contract is projected to climb about $29 per household under new collection contracts. If Niagara Falls is not part of the equation, the figure would rise to a projected $40 per household, according to the report.
For now it seems this may be avoided, as the City of Niagara Falls and Niagara Region have crafted an agreement with which everyone can abide. The Region will hire an external consultant to review waste collection practices and make recommendations to make the collection system more efficient and cost-effective. Niagara Falls, in turn, will drop its plan to manage waste collection on its own.
“This resolution, as it stands, is fair,” said Diodati. “It is compromising rather than polarizing. We are going to look at ways to improve the system in what is the biggest contract in the Region’s history. Why not take a sober second look?”
Hopefully, this resolution will mean that residents of the Niagara Region get a more efficient garbage system without having to pay almost double.