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A look inside the city’s landfill that is running out of space


The Trail Road Waste Facility is the city’s only municipally run landfill, but space there is filling up and it could reach its capacity is a little over a decade.

David Brown is the councillor for Rideau-Jock Ward, which includes the city’s dump on Trail Road, southwest of Barrhaven. He says, “It is one of the most important pieces of municipal infrastructure. The facility takes all of the residential waste in the city of Ottawa, so quite literally, Ottawa could not function without the Trail Road Waste facility.”

Brown says, “After you put your waste to your curbside, you tend to forget about it. But when you do that, it ends up out in rural Ottawa in Ward 21.”

According to the city’s website, about 40 trucks make more than 1,000 stops a day on the average garbage pickup. A truck can carry 10 tonnes of material, and once it is full, it makes its way to the dump.

Every truck is weighed in order to track what is entering the facility. The city says the dump receives about 1,000 tonnes of garbage every day, which is the equivalent of more than 500 hippos.

Once trucks are in the facility, vehicles bring their load to the tipping face, which is the “active zone at the edge of a landfill.” The tipping face moves continuously in the dump, as the mountain grows.

After the truck unloads all the garbage, a bulldozer pushes the piles up the mountain, while a specialized compressor flattens the garbage as much as possible.

Brown says the city receives very little complaints about traffic or smell related to the landfill.

“I think something that residents should recognize is Ottawa is one of few jurisdictions in Ontario that actually manages all of its residential waste within the municipal boundaries, we don’t truck it elsewhere.”

There are also fences along the site to prevent trash from flying onto the highway or areas nearby. The dump also use hawks or falcons to scare away seagulls.

So far, the dump’s overall approved waste footprint is 88.5 hectares—more than 150 football fields wide.

Brandon Maynard is the coordinator of site compliance at the landfill. In a statement to CTV News, based on volume calculations in 2022, roughly 3.5 million cubic metres of available space remains to put garbage, or roughly 20 per cent of the landfill remains.

There is only one area left to put garbage, phase 5. Construction is already underway to prepare that area, and it could start receiving trash sometime next year.

A new landfill would cost the city about $450 million. A waste-to-energy solution, such as an incinerator, would likely be more expensive and take more than a decade to build.

In June, city council voted to limit garbage collection to 3 containers bi-weekly. This is lower than city staff’s recommendation of a partial pay-as-you-throw option, which would have seen residents receiving up to 55 tags a year from the city and paying $3 extra for extra tags.

“When you look at a core service, garbage is it. And we want to make sure that we have that core service at our disposal when we need it. Ottawa already has bi-weekly collection and that forces residents to do better and divert more of their waste. At the end of the residents want that core service to show up,” says Brown. 


A previous version of this article said 3.5 cubic metres of space remained in the landfill. The correct amount is 3.5 million cubic metres. Top Stories

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