Toronto delays decision on privatizing waste collection — again
- The Toronto City Council voted 40-4 on Jan. 31 in support of a last-minute motion from Mayor John Tory to study the effects of privatizing waste collection in the city's easternmost sanitation district before making a decision, as reported by Global News.
- The decision has been heralded as a victory by members of CUPE Local 416 after the union launched a vocal campaign against privatization called "Kicked to the Curb."
- Tory originally campaigned on privatization plans in 2014, a move that has already happened in the city's western districts, and had supported the idea until now.
Toronto's two western districts have both already been privatized for multiple years, with the most recent contract beginning in 2015, and city staff have reported notable cost savings from this move in past reports. Since 2015, the discussion around what to do about the more than 237,000 stops in the two eastern districts has evolved over multiple reports and meetings. In November 2016, the council decided to delay this decision until January to allow time for more review.
The latest report recommended a "managed competition" procurement process, which would accept private bids as well as an internal city bid, for only one of the two eastern districts to start. The city's research has found no notable difference in diversion rates between public or private collection in local districts. Cost comparisons would become more clear once bids were submitted. Though the city's collection fleet was found to have serious financial challenges that have led to additional overtime costs, and this could be one of the deciding factors in the future.
Last summer, the Toronto City Council set a goal of reaching 70% diversion by 2026 and, like many others, has been looking for new ways to reduce its landfill usage. Privatization may not be the right answer for every municipality and the debate can elicit strong opinions on either side. Though in a city of this size that is looking to save money while diverting more waste, this idea has a good chance of coming up again.
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