'Yuck factor' still hindering Ottawa's green bin efforts

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The city is expected to bring in a new strategy to increase recycling among residents to council early in 2018.

The city is expected to bring in a new strategy to increase recycling among residents to council early in 2018. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

Details of new strategy to boost organics recycling coming to council early next year

By Joanne Chianello, CBC News

Facing stagnant participation rates by residents put off by the "yuck factor" of dumping kitchen scraps in their green bins, the City of Ottawa is in talks with the company that handles household organic waste to look for ways to boost uptake in the expensive recycling program.

"We have a very productive relationship with Orgaworld and we have been talking about solutions," said Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works. "That's something we hope to have an answer for early next year."

Wylie made the comments following a wide-ranging discussion at Tuesday's environment committee about waste diversion.

It was the committee's first deep dive into the subject during this term of council, a discussion prompted by a scathing report from Waste Watch Ottawa that called out the city for its poor diversion rate.

Ottawa lagging on waste diversion, group says

In 2016 Ottawa's diversion rate was 44 per cent, one of the lowest in the province. Only about half of eligible households used the green bin last year, and that's costing taxpayers money

Under the city's 20-year contract with Orgaworld, the city pays to process a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of organic waste. But the city has never reached that tonnage since the green bin program began in 2010.

In 2016, Ottawa sent 71,000 tonnes to Orgaworld's composting facility, costing taxpayers about $1 million in unused capacity.

'Yuck factor' still an issue

Councillors and staff both agreed that the "yuck factor" of throwing kitchen scraps into the green bin has likely held back many residents from participating in the organics recycling program. In the summer, for example, hot weather can lead to maggots in the bin, as well as unpleasant odours.

The city has spent $350,000 this year on education and outreach to encourage recycling.

"You can always do more education," Wylie said. "But at some point you've got to switch up the program and that's what we're going hopefully to be tabling in Q1 2018 ... a strategy to increase participation using the existing programs we have."

Giving residents the ability to put their organic waste in plastic bags before placing it in the green bin could increase diversion.

Coun. David Chernushenko said plastic bags aren't necessary in the green bin, "but it certainly makes it easier for more people."

However plastic bags currently aren't allowed under the Orgaworld contract, a detail that would have to be renegotiated. Legal disputes around the contract have so far prevented full-blown contract discussions.

As well, new provincial rules calling on producers to pay the costs of waste disposal and recycling — details of which are expected by the end of the year — will also affect the city's updated recycling strategy.

Green Bin program's 'yuck factor' still bedevils city hall

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

The city is trapped in a green bin of confusion, not knowing how to get more people to scrape the guck from their plates into a bucket instead of a trash can.

After being shamed by Waste Watch Ottawa into addressing a ho-hum diversion rate, council’s environment committee on Tuesday held a question-and-answer session with staff about recycling and green bins.

The city is still having trouble helping people conquer their fear of the “yuck factor” in separating gooey organics from dry garbage, according to Kevin Wylie, the general manager of public works and environmental services.

Allowing people to use plastic bags, instead of only paper products, has been billed as one possible solution to increase the usage rate, but the city is still duking it out with Orgaworld over the 20-year green bin contract signed in 2008.

The legal tussle between the city and Orgaworld is over leaf and yard waste, but it’s getting in the way of other potential initiatives, such as using plastic bags.

“It boggles the mind that with an arbitrator ruling that essentially said the city was in the right that we’d be still here years later,” said Coun. David Chernushenko, chair of the environment committee.

“I’ll be blunt. It sucks.”

Artist dismayed after Lansdowne Park installation taken down for Grey Cup seats

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'Moving Surfaces' was installed at Lansdowne Park in September 2014. (David Barbour)

Moving Surfaces installation removed to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup

By Sandra Abma, CBC News

An award-winning Canadian artist is wondering about the fate of a major work of public art she designed for Lansdowne Park, one she says was dismantled to make room for more seats for the Grey Cup.

Until last week, Jill Anholt's Moving Surfaces, a giant steel and light sculpture, was installed atop a hill of rolling green next to TD Place Stadium.

Now the multi-million dollar installation has been removed to make way for way for additional seats for the upcoming Grey Cup on Nov. 26.

"I wasn't consulted about the process," said Anholt from her home in Vancouver.

Anholt said she has no details of how her very complex construction of bended steel and LED lights was taken apart, and how it is being stored. She worries that a lack of expertise, combined with the speed of the removal, may have damaged her work.

"I'm really upset, terribly upset," she said.

Anholt said she was surprised to learn from the city's public art department that Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and the City of Ottawa were considering moving the art, because prior to the sculpture being installed in 2014, her team had already come up with a solution if the need arose for more stadium seating.

"We did numerous studies, 3D modelling, drawings, had multiple conversations, documentation, to prove that the artwork could co-exist with the stands, so as far as I was concerned that was put to rest years ago," said Anholt.

Anholt said when she learned about the possible move, she quickly resent those studies to the city and OSEG, with a request for more information about what they were planning.

"I got nothing. The next thing I know they were taking it out," she said.

Anholt said she only learned the art was being removed last week, when a concerned citizen from Ottawa sent her photos of her sculpture in pieces, laying uncovered on the ground.

Safety behind decision, says city manager

Dan Chenier, the city's general manager of recreation, cultural and facility services, said "unfortunately the artist wasn't advised before the work got started," but added that Anholt was contacted shortly afterward.

Safety concerns were behind the decision to temporally replace the artwork with stands of seating for the upcoming crowds expected to take in the Grey Cup football game and the Heritage Winter Classic hockey match, Chenier said.

"Initially it was believed that the stands could be built over it, but because of the berm, the configuration of the site, it was found that it couldn't be done safely," said Chenier.

Chenier said the sculpture will be reinstalled in the same location in the spring, after the sporting events are done.

Bernie Ashe, the CEO of OSEG, said in a statement released Wednesday that attempts were made to design temporary stands around the artwork, but "regrettably, that was not possible."

"Great care was taken to temporarily move the sculpture from the berm at the west end of Lansdowne Park and great care will be taken to reinstall it in its permanent home in the spring. We look forward to seeing Moving Surfaces back where it belongs," Ashe said.

Anholt, however, said she has "grave concerns" the intricate artwork can ever be reassembled.

'I would never blind-side my colleagues on anything': Councillors bitter over plan to hike stormwater fee

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Projected increases to the newly structured stormwater fee have some rural politicians livid, with one councillor fearing the city duped residents into settling for the so-called rain tax.

Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt, who heads council’s rural affairs committee, couldn’t mask his frustration during an environment committee meeting on Tuesday as staff presented their proposed 10-year financial plan for water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.

The plan calls for annual increases to the stormwater fee between 10 per cent and 13 per cent through 2027.

The city went through a painful process last year to convince residents who aren’t on municipal water and sewer services that they need to pay a stormwater fee, since only those who received water and sewer bills were actually paying for the city’s stormwater infrastructure program.

Moffatt recoiled at the latest staff plan to hike the stormwater fee by substantial rates starting in 2018.

“It presents as though the stormwater fee will be increased significantly over the next 10 years and I feel that’s not what we said last year,” Moffatt said after the environment committee meeting.

It’s “disingenuous” that the city sold a new stormwater fee to residents in 2016 and then came back in 2017 with a report that recommends expanding the stormwater budget, Moffatt said.

Moffatt seemed equally disheartened that no one at city hall apparently gave him a heads up about the proposed increases, especially since he worked hard during the consultations on the highly controversial stormwater fee and rate review in 2016.

“Why would you leave someone out? I would never do that to my colleagues,” Moffatt said. “I would never blind-side my colleagues on anything.”

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, the chair of the environment committee, said residents and councillors would have known that future financial plans would impact the stormwater fee.

“I don’t believe residents were at all hoodwinked, misled, lied to. No shell games here,” Chernushenko said. “I know our staff made it very clear, and I made a point of insisting that we make it clear, that what we were talking about during the rate review was how we allocate who pays what portion.”

The amount the city needs to pay for stormwater services is something that would be considered on an annual basis through budgets and a long-range financial plan, Chernushenko said.