How the city lucked out on Plasco

le .

Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen

The city is having a little trouble extricating itself from its relationship with Plasco Energy. As our Matthew Pearson reports, the environment committee voted to officially cut ties with company on Tuesday, but city solicitor Rick O’Connor says the city can’t unilaterally cancel its contract with Plasco without a judge’s permission now that the company is under creditors’ protection.

It won’t be entirely smooth sailing over the next while for the city when it comes to Plasco, and not just because the city needs a court’s permission to unilaterally end its contract. Decommissioning the Plasco site, which sits on city land, looks like it’ll take 18 months. Plasco had already given the city a $300,000 deposit for the decommissioning and Tuesday, Kirkpatrick told councillors that he was “comfortable” that the deposit would cover the winding-down costs. Let’s hope he’s right.

Also over the years, the city has paid Plasco a so-called tipping fee to take our garbage for the company to process in its facility, although at the moment of the creditor protection filing, it’s the city that owes Plasco $15,000.

So, all in all, Ottawa taxpayers get off fairly lightly. (The people of Blind River were not so lucky, as the Citizen’s Vito Pilieci describes — they’re owed almost $18 million by Plasco).

Environment committee votes to end Plasco deal

le .

Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

The city’s environment committee voted Tuesday to formally terminate Ottawa’s contract with Plasco — a crucial first step in severing ties with the homegrown clean-tech company, which filed for creditor protection last week.

The committee also voted to give city manager Kent Kirkpatrick the necessary authority to terminate the lease for Plasco’s Trail Road demonstration facility and to develop a plan for finding a replacement technology to deal with Ottawa’s residual residential waste.

But some councillors and members of the public urged the city not to rush into anything and instead fully explore other options to increase the city’s diversion rates, such as increased uptake of the green bin program, especially in apartment and condo buildings.

“I don’t want to rush this. I don’t think we need to rush this,” said Rideau-Goulbourn Coun. Scott Moffatt.

Although it has raised more than $300 million over the years, Plasco was unable to secure financing for its commercial plant by Dec. 31, missing its third and final deadline under a 20-year contract with the city that would have paid the company $9.1 million a year to take as much as 300 tonnes of garbage a day.

Green bins still only used in 15% of apartment, condos, city says

le .

Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Citizen

Nearly five years after it was introduced, the green bin organics recycling program is available in only 15 per cent of apartment buildings and townhouse complexes in Ottawa.

The city provided bins to all single-family dwellings served by curb-side garbage collection in of advance of the program’s 2010 launch. But multi-unit apartment and condominium buildings, as well as some townhouse complexes — where residents bring garbage and recyclables to a central location for containerized pickup — have proven much more difficult because the city requires the co-operation of property managers, condo boards or residents to drive the program.

That could explain why only 198 of the roughly 1,300 eligible buildings and townhouse complexes have green bins today, according to Marilyn Journeaux, manager of Ottawa’s solid waste services department.

Green bin service is available to every building in the city. Property managers or condo board representatives can call 311 and arrange for a waste inspector to visit the property and work out a plan for pickup.

“One of the barriers to apartment buildings is we literally have to work one-on-one with each building to figure out a solution to implementing the program in the building,” Journeaux said.

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all package.”

The revelation that green bin use in apartments and condos is so low comes at a time when both Mayor Jim Watson and environment committee chair David Chernushenko say the city must do a better job promoting the use of organics recycling, particularly in multi-unit buildings, as part of a broader strategy to boost diversion rates and prolong the life of the city’s Trail Road landfill.

“It’s disappointing it’s that low,” Chernushenko said, adding he’d like to get a better understanding of the logistical challenges many buildings owners face.