TORONTO – Toronto’s private trash haulers were supposed to save the city millions annually by renegotiating the contracts of the city’s garbage collection system, according to a report released Friday that suggests that the city could save as much as $32 million annually by switching to privatization.
What’s more, the city did an “exhaustive” review of the city’s garbage collection to ensure privatization was “the best way to preserve the qualities and levels of service” while further cutting costs, said the report from Councillor Josh Matlow, chair of the city’s audit committee. In the first eight months of this year, debt to cover the city’s trash costs has gone up to $229 million, up from $181 million the year before, and has stayed well above $100 million for the past eight years, the report added.
“I didn’t want this waste to be solved just on a slide show or flashy report about privatization,” Matlow said. “I think that sounds good, but I wanted to know: Is it going to solve the real problems?”
Matlow’s report, “Toronto’s Trash Book: An Audit of the City’s Trash Collection,” is intended to examine whether privatization is the way to go to address the city’s problems. Matlow himself said at the report’s release that he does not support privatization, saying that he’s open to other options that “keep the onus on to the private sector to keep track of the garbage” and keep it out of city garbage cans and storm drains. However, Matlow is sticking to his report’s $32 million figure, claiming that privatization could cut the city’s trash bill by at least $27 million annually.
A handful of garbage haulers are vying for the city’s contract, which expires in June 2020. Matlow said that he won’t stop campaigning to convince the people in charge to pick the lowest bid, explaining, “I’m a full-bore campaigner.”
Olivia Chow, a leading mayoral candidate who also supported privatization as an alternative to higher taxes to reduce the city’s debts, told the National Post that she doesn’t support Matlow’s report “because it doesn’t give any real specifics on how to decrease the financial burden” on residents. But she supports his plan to remove the city’s 10 garbage trucks from street corners.
“Why not put the trucks where they’re needed, where they’re used the most and where they serve the residents best?” she said. “I don’t think a garbage truck on every corner should be the answer.”
In September, Toronto City Council approved a bylaw authorizing Matlow’s audit into the city’s waste collection, according to the Wall Street Journal. In June 2017, after long, months-long debate, council voted in favor of privatization of the city’s trash collection system. The Toronto Star reports that it was feared that having a private company outsource trash collection would slow down garbage collection service and slow down the collection of garbage, particularly during the winter.
The move was opposed by nearly all of Toronto’s councillors. In March 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that privatizing garbage collection is a “no-brainer” and could help to expand the country’s public transit systems.