Landfill capacity in Simcoe County and across Ontario is a concern, says county director of solid waste management
Editor’s Note: As a separate city, Barrie operates its own waste collection. Simcoe County oversees waste from neighboring towns and townships.
According to census figures released earlier this month, the population of some communities in Simcoe County is growing faster than expected.
This is likely to create many challenges for municipalities and the impact is already being felt at local landfills – and could impact taxpayers’ wallets.
For several years, Simcoe County has not been able to accommodate all of the waste that goes to its landfills. The county exports waste, primarily, to a landfill in Niagara, while exported recycled materials are processed at Green for Life in Toronto; organic materials are sent to BioEn in Elmira.
Exporting is not cheap. According to Simcoe County’s 2021 budget estimates, the county pays approximately $13 million annually for waste export, treatment, and disposal. This figure does not include revenue generated by the provincial recycling program, as it varies each year.
This cost will likely continue to rise as the population grows.
In 2021, Simcoe County curbside litter collection crews collected approximately 98,027 tonnes of materials (garbage, organics, recyclables and seasonal collections).
Rob McCullough, the county’s director of solid waste management, said residents are doing a good job diverting waste from local landfills using recycling and organics programs.
Diversion rates in Simcoe County increased in 2021 from 62.5% in 2020 to 63.7% in 2021. The county ranked second in Ontario for diversion rates last year .
“We are truly impressed with our Simcoe County residents,” McCullough said. “We continue to be well placed.”
Since bi-weekly collection began in 2020, curbside organic tonnages have continued to increase, from 35.9% before the change in 2020 to 61.4% now. Despite the large increase in the capture of organics, the contamination rate of organics has decreased significantly, which means that the material is much cleaner.
Curbside organics increased by 2,685 tonnes (13.4%) compared to 2020. Curbside litter was similar to the previous year with only 49 tonnes more collected in 2021. curbside curbside recycling increased by 1,674 tonnes (6.6%) in 2021 compared to 2020.
McCullough notes that waste generation per person has decreased in 2021. However, the increase in population has resulted in a net overall increase.
He said it was “a bit of a shock” to see the 2021 census figures showing an increase in populations in Simcoe County in 2021 compared to 2016.
Bradford West Gwillimbury, Wasaga Beach and New Tecumseth are among the fastest growing communities in the country, according to the latest census data.
“Until we saw the census, we didn’t clearly understand where it came from. We had wondered if it was an increase in consumerism,” McCullough said. “It was an interesting development.”
He worries about the capacity of the county’s landfills as landfills across the province close and municipalities across the board need to explore more export options.
In January 2021, a report commissioned by the Ontario Waste Management Association found that, based on the current rate of depletion of landfill capacity, Ontario’s available landfill capacity is projected to be depleted by 2032. If the United States banned waste from Ontario to cross the border, the province’s landfill capacity would be exhausted by 2028.
Based on projected tonnages and population growth, three landfills in Simcoe County are expected to close within this time frame. The Collingwood landfill is expected to close next year, while the Nottawasaga landfill is expected to reach capacity in 2025.
The Oro-Medonte landfill has a remaining capacity of 247,329 cubic meters and will reach capacity in 2029, county officials predict.
The county is planning an update to its solid waste management strategy, which was originally approved by council in 2010 and has plans for 20 years. The update is expected to be delivered with recommendations to the county council this fall.
As part of this update, the county will launch a public survey to gather feedback from residents on what they think is the direction the county should be taking on waste management.
McCullough said the update was planned earlier this year, but was delayed due to major changes in garbage collection.
“We’ve had so many changes, which are partly due to the pandemic, but also due to our new automated cart collection contract,” he said.
The investigation is expected to be made public by June and will be open for six weeks.