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One size fits all: Council wants more info on multi-sized black bins in Calgary

Anyone hoping to cut down on their garbage pick-up fees by getting a smaller black bin will have to wait until at least next year.

After hearing administration’s plans for variable-sized black bins, a Calgary city council committee sent the report back, asking for more details on costs.

City administrators were pitching the idea of allowing residents to choose between three different sized black bins: a smaller 120-litre cart, the current 240-litre carts, or an extra-large 360-litre cart.

Utility fees would be lower for those who chose the smaller carts, and higher for anyone choosing the larger bins.

They were also pitching the idea of “tag-a-bag” where residents with extra waste on a pickup day could set a black bag next to their black cart which would be tagged and charged back to them.

Melanie Cooke, manager of strategic services for the City of Calgary, told councillors they’d looked at how other cities were providing these services.

She warned the committee that one unintended consequence is that some cities saw more contamination in their blue and green bins as residents tried to keep garbage out of the black bin.

Rick Valdarchi, Calgary’s director of Waste and Recycling, told the committee that most cities that have variable-sized bins charge about 25 per cent less for pickup on the smaller bins, and about 25 per cent more on pickup for the larger ones, although he said the city still had to crunch those numbers.

Calgary has a goal of diverting 70 per cent of its waste from landfills to recycling and composting programs by 2025.

Coun. Joe Magliocca was skeptical of the tag-a-bag program.

“I guarantee you in my neighborhood they won’t be paying for bags,” said the Ward 2 councillor. “They’ll just go walking up and down the block and looking for other (bins) that aren’t full.”

Coun. Peter Demong raised the question about the current black bins, and when they would need replacing, saying it might be cheaper to roll out a program once it comes time to start replacing the majority of the bins.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he had concerns about the numbers. He made a motion that the matter be referred back to administration

“I’d just like to see the numbers as soon as possible,” said the mayor. “I think at that point council could easily at least say go, wait for four years or wait until the bins are ready.”

Administration is now scheduled to report back with those numbers in the first quarter of next year. This recommendation still needs to be approved by council.