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Here's what you need to know about Ottawa's new 3-item garbage limit

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Ottawa residents have four months to adjust their garbage disposal habits before a new three-garbage item limit is imposed on curbside waste this fall.

The City of Ottawa will implement the new three-item limit on Sept. 30, as part of a plan to reduce the amount of waste heading to the landfill and extend the life of the Trail Road Landfill.

"If changes aren’t made to waste disposal habits, the Trail Waste Facility Landfill could reach capacity between 2034 and 2035," staff say, noting a new landfill or waste-to-energy facility could cost between $350 and $500 million.

It's the biggest change in Ottawa's curbside garbage policy since 2012, when the city shifted garbage pickup from weekly to biweekly.

Council discussed the new three-garbage item limit on May 29, including approving the three-month phased in-approach to enforcing the new cap on garbage.

CTVNewsOttawa.ca looks at what you need to know about the new garbage item limit.

What is the new curbside waste limit?

Starting September 30, all households will be limited to three items on collection day.

The city says a garbage item could be a garbage bag, a 140-litre container or a bulky item.

"Households can put several smaller bags in containers up to 140 litres," staff say.

When does the new three-item limit begin?

The firm three-garbage item limit will begin on Monday, Sept. 30, but the city will phase in enforcement of the new limit.

"The approach to monitoring proper curbside set-outs will focus primarily on supporting residents as they adjust their waste disposal habits to align to the new set-out limit, emphasizing education with a graduated transition to addressing instances of noncompliance to include not collecting incorrectly set out garbage," staff say.

The three-item limit will be phased in over three months:

October

All garbage items at the curb are collected, even if the limit is being exceeded, according to the city.

"Collection staff to record and leave a custom non-compliance tag indicating the limit and how to properly participate in waste diversion programs."

November

If a household exceeds the three-garbage item limit, collection staff will record the limit is exceeded and leave one item behind with a custom non-compliance tag.

December

Starting in December, only three garbage items will be collected every two weeks and a non-compliance tag will be attached to garbage items left behind.

"Collection operators will continue to document cases of improper set-out and escalate for review and follow-up by a Solid Waste Inspector," staff say.

What is considered three items?

The city says an item is the following:

  • a plastic waste bag
  • a bin with a maximum capacity of up to 140 litres. Households can put several waste bags in a bin as long as the weight is less than 33 pounds (15 kilos) per bin.
  • Furniture or bulky item that can’t be re-used or donated

Examples of the three-item combination:

  • one 140-litre bin, a plastic waste bag and a broken chair
  • three 140-litre bins
  • three plastic waste bags
  • two 140 litre bins and one broken vacuum

Who does the three-item garbage limit apply to?

  • The three-item garbage limit applies to all households on curbside collection.
  • This includes households that set out waste at the edge of the curb or laneway for collection or at an approved common pad collection area.

If I live in a multi-unit property with six units or less, do I fall under the three-item garbage limit?

“Yes. If you live in a registered multi-unit property with six units or less, each individual unit is able to set out three-items for collection every two weeks,” the city says.

Do basement apartments fall under the three-item garbage limit?

“Homes with basement apartments can set out a maximum of three-items every two weeks,” the city says. “This is because single family homes with a basement apartment pay one solid waste user fee.”

Will I receive information about the new three-item limit?

Staff say a "comprehensive communications and engagement plan" has been developed to inform residents of the changes and increase participation in diversion programs.

The plan will "focus on maximizing resident awareness of the program change" and provide support for households adjusting to waste disposal habits. The campaign will also look to increase participation in the existing recycling and diversion programs.

Phase 2 of the campaign between May and October to ensure residents are aware of the program changes will include a mail out to all curbside residents, paid advertising, information videos, information for councillors to share and social media.

Phase 3 from June 2024 to March 2025 will include promoting the existing recycling programs and waste diversion tools.

What will the city do about illegal dumping?

The city of Ottawa expects an increase in illegal dumping on private property during the launch of the three-item limit.

"Illegal dumping is expected to trickle off after three to six months of the new policy being in place when paired with an enhanced temporary monitoring program," staff say.

The 2024 budget included new "temporary resources" to monitor illegal dumping in parks and address the anticipated increase in illegal dumping on private property.

What if I have extra items?

The city will be extending the yellow bag program to residential households, allowing people to set out additional garbage at the curb.

Staff say it is feasible for the city to leverage the existing Yellow Bag Program for curbside households to purchase and set out additional bags above the three-garbage item limit.

Bags will be sold in four packs for $17.60 plus tax, and would be available at all seven Client Service Centres, 10 Home Hardwares and one BMR.

There is no limit to the number of yellow bags that are set out for collection.

Households would also be able to register for the Special Considerations Program, where diapers and incontinence products are accepted and are collected on the off week of garbage for registered households. Medical items, including casts, catheters, disposable pads, masks and dialysis waste would be accepted under the expanded program.

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