Garbage user fees

The very day I advocated that Ottawa should copy the Vancouver system of having residents pay for garbage by the bin, Toronto takes up that very cause, the Toronto Star reports:

[Mayor David ]Miller and city staff have been quietly working on a plan, divulged yesterday, that would turn the city’s garbage system into a self-financing utility much like the water system, where user fees cover costs. Depending on their needs, a household could choose to have a small (32 gallon), medium (64 gallon) or large (95 gallon) garbage bin. The bigger the bin, the higher the annual fee. That would encourage residents to reduce, recycle or compost their waste, and help the city reach its goal of diverting 70 per cent of waste from the dump by 2010.

Miller argued that switching to a fee-based system gives residents some control over what they pay.

“The general idea is you try to remove some of it from property taxes, and you pay extra if you produce a lot of garbage. I think Torontonians will understand that if you pay for recycling and diversion programs, that needs to be part of the strategy.”

Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) agreed that user fees are a way to reduce pressure on the residential property tax base, “so people have a choice on how to avoid increases. They can negotiate their (financial) commitment to the city in terms of how much garbage they put on the curb.”

Update: The Star‘s excellent City Hall columnist Royson James disapproves:

Instead of adopting a bureaucratic system of rebating everyone an average $180 and then charging them $180 for a standard bin, why not keep the current system and impose disincentives?

Limit bags (or size of bins) for standard pickup and require residents to purchase bags or tags for extra.

Dump more, pay more. Meanwhile, the city maintains the integrity of a flat-rate service.

Why is that important? Because user-pay systems disproportionately affect poorer residents. Charge everyone $180 to pick up a standard bin and the poor person pays more of his or her wages than the well-off person.

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