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Education key to blue box enforcement in Durham
June 14, 2015
By Terry Davidson

Education, education, education.

This is how Durham Region has chosen to enforce bylaws that require residents to separate trash for recycling and composting.

It is a soft-gloved approach that seems to be working, with only one fine being issued to a homeowner since the bylaw’s enactment in 2011 - and that wasn’t for improper sorting, but for repeatedly leaving waste at the curb on non-collection days.

“Our council’s feeling about the enforcement program is work cooperatively with the residents - give them the tools, the education ... to help them participate. We find people usually want to do the right thing and they just don’t know what it is, and once we tell them, they’re on board,” said Peter Veiga, Durham’s supervisor of waste management.

He described the region’s enforcement model as an “escalation system” that uses “friendly reminder” door hangers and work orders to generate compliance - and fines as a last resort. Durham Region has two bylaw compliance officers assigned the job of educating residents about weekly curbside collection. They travel throughout the region, checking to ensure that compostable waste is placed in green bins and recyclables go in blue boxes.

“I see it every day, the waste being put out ... (and) in our travels, you’ll see there is generally a high compliance rate,” enforcement officer Jesse Edsall said recently, before stopping his truck on a Pickering street to check on a resident who has been caught placing yard waste in with the regular trash.

This time, the yard refuse has been properly stuffed in the appropriate bags. Good. But now, two unwanted toilets - items considered recyclable in Durham - have been put out as trash. No appointment has been made to have them picked up, and the bowls haven’t been separated from the tanks, as required.

Edsall placed a sticker on one of them with a number to call and leaves a door hanger at the home, notifying the resident of the problem.

“Sometimes we have residents who have moved here from somewhere else - or from somewhere else in the world - and are unfamiliar with the program (in Durham),” said Edsall, adding that he realizes there may be some “stumbling” for some on the way to compliance.

Veiga, meanwhile, added that around 1,250 friendly reminders are given to residents each year, and that they’ve worked “almost 100%” of the time.

“One of the things we get right now is a lot of people moving in from ... Toronto and York Region, and they’re used to a different green bin program than ours,” Veiga said.

He noted that unlike Durham, Toronto doesn’t require green bin waste to be contained in a biodegradable bag.

Veiga said Durham currently has a 55% waste diversion rate and that the region is looking to expand its organic waste program and get its hands on “pre-sort technology” to pull even more material out of the garbage stream.

Curbside waste by the numbers:

Durham Region

- A 55% waste diversion rate in 2014, with a goal of 70% (no target date).
- Around 1,250 “friendly reminders” issued to residents each year.
- Durham collected 47,000 tonnes of blue box material, 27,000 tonnes of green bin refuse and and 77,000 tonnes of garbage in 2014.
- Number of fines issued under Durham’s recycling bylaws: One
- Number of compliance officers for the region: 2
Source: Durham Region

Peel Region
- A 46% waste diversion rate for 2014, with a goal of 75% by 2021.
- Peel collected 93,100 tonnes blue bin refuse, 105,900 tonnes of green bin and yard waste and 278,100 tonnes of garbage in 2014.
- Number of residential/business fines issued since 2010: 80
- Over 20,000 residential/business inspections done per year.
- Number of compliance officers for the region: 13
Source: Region of Peel

York Region
- A 59% waste diversion rate in 2013 (most recent verified data), with a target of 90% by 2016.
- York collected 87,600 tonnes of blue bin material, 94,700 tonnes of green bin rubbish and and 124,000 tonnes of garbage in 2014.
- York Region’s municipalities handle curbside collection, enforcement, and fines.
Source: York Region

Halton Region
- A 60% waste diversion rate in 2014, with a goal of 62% by 2018.
- Number of compliance officers: 2
- Halton collected 48,300 tonnes of blue bin waste, 28,560 of green bin material and and 61,740 tonnes of garbage in 2014.