Public-private waste system ‘works well for us,’ Hamilton councillor says

Proponents say Toronto could learn from GTHA neighbour's experience

Something about contracting out city trash collection just doesn’t smell right to Hugh Pardo.

“I don’t trust private companies to not just be after profit,” said Pardo, a Hamilton resident living in the Flamborough ward.

“It was only a few years ago the companies tried to convince the city to take on other cities’ garbage,” he said. “They have control over the landfill here in Flamborough, and it just keeps getting bigger.”

Trash talk: Toronto’s outgoing mayor urges full privatization, others say follow Hamilton’s lead

In his first speech after winning back his old Ward 2 council seat on Oct. 27, Rob Ford challenged mayor-elect John Tory to finish what the outgoing mayor started.

“The first thing I want to see him do is to contract out garbage on the other side of Yonge Street,” said Ford. “There’s no reason not to get that done immediately.”

In a bid to cut costs and reduce the risk of labour strife, Toronto city council voted in 2011 to privatize trash collection west of Yonge, but left a decision on how to handle garbage service in the rest of the city for another day.

Councillors like Josh Matlow have argued if Toronto wants to expand the privatization of its garbage collection, it should model its system after Hamilton’s.

During the campaign, Tory, who is set to be sworn in as mayor on Dec. 2, said he favours expanding private waste collection east of Yonge Street.

In 2001, six municipalities were amalgamated into the new City of Hamilton. Four of those municipalities contracted out waste collection.

It was in that context that the new city decided on a split system for trash collection.

“Getting into a municipal waste collection business can be a costly venture, so it’s important that the public sector maintains a substantial presence in the delivery service to keep the private sector honest,” city collections manager Blair Smith said in a report.

Hamilton transformed its garbage collection system through its Solid Waste Management Master Plan, which combined privatized service and public sector supervision.

The approach Hamilton ultimately finalized by 2012 was coined “public-private competitive.”

“Maintaining a blend of both public and private service will prevent a monopoly from being developed yet instil a competitive attitude amongst service providers,” said a 2001 City of Hamilton report on the harmonization of waste collection services.

Three years later, Hamilton produced a comparison of public and private trash collection costs that stated city collection cost $71.91 per household while private pickup cost $60.88 per household.

“The split system works well for us,” said Chad Collins, a Hamilton city councillor. “The city took responsibility for its own waste.”