Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Bag tags

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This week, CTV carried a story that City staff are set to propose “bag tags” as part of a suite of solutions to help us manage our dwindling landfill space. I’ve been challenged by residents to let people know where I stand on the issue.

Luckily, I didn’t have to search very long to find my very public answer to this question in my election survey response to the question posed by Ecology Ottawa. As I stated at the time:

“Yes. I support this idea but want to qualify it as support for charging only for excess garbage. It would penalize low-income households disproportionately if all garbage carried a user fee — user fees are regressive. I would support having a base level of free pickup that reflects what truly cannot be recycled or diverted into the green bins, and charge for exceeding this.”

That continues to be my stance today.

Today, Ottawa residents pay a very low fee to make their waste disappear. Residential property owners pay $119 a year as a levy on their tax bill to throw out up to six bags/items every two weeks. No wonder our landfill is going to run out of space in the next 12 to 15 years. When it does, we’re going to have to build a new one at a cost of something like $400 million.

I compared this to the cost of garbage service in Toronto, where residents are required to get a City garbage bin for hundreds of dollars more per year, with stricter limits on how much can be thrown out (with bi-weekly collection).

Households do sometimes exceed the capacity of their bins, and bag tags can be bought from CTC and Shoppers locations for $6.14 each.


I've been asked about whether other cities use bag tags, and as always the best comparisons are to other Ontario cities. In Kingston, residents can throw out one untagged bag per week, and additional bags can be thrown out with tags that cost $2 each, on top of the garbage levy that would be around $60 for a $415,000 property. Hamilton allows one bag of garbage per week, but mails residents 12 tags each year, and allows residents to order 14 more as a maximum allocation each year. The cost of Hamilton's waste collection is included in taxes, so the impact is not immediately evident, but the cost of that is roughly $2.7 million to the taxpayer assessed across the tax base. In Sudbury, residents are limited to 2 bags/items bi-weekly with additonal items allowed with the purchase of $2 bag tags (overall waste collection costs are collected through taxes rather than a separate levy).

Bag tags are not new, they're not exclusive to Ontario, and they have the advantage of better matching the amount of waste a household disposes of to the cost of that. Households that carefully manage how much they consume and how much waste they produce should be rewarded for doing their part to minimize the cost to taxpayers of solid waste management.

I don't know what will be proposed for Ottawa. Staff have for a couple of years been engaged in a highly-publicized consultation exercise sounding out residents' opinions about our Solid Waste Master Plan, which you can read more about here and to which I've pointed on at least a couple of occasions. In the next few weeks, staff will unveil their full suite of proposals on how Ottawa should handle its waste, and I'll be interested to see how bag tags are proposed, how we'll encourage more green bin use (particularly in multi-residence buildings) and other measures to prolong the life of our landfill. That plan will be brought to Council for a vote, and I expect - as long as the proposal provides for some base level of service to everyone included in a levy or taxes - to support at least the proposal for bag tags.

Posted April 27, 2023