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County may end funding for school recycling programs

Learning and Living Green program has been running at more than 100 schools county-wide since 2010; 'There is significant risk' in investing money to continue initiative
File photo

On Tuesday county councillors will be discussing the future of recycling in schools county-wide.

Up for discussion will be the Learning and Living Green program, involving county collection of recycling and organics at more than 100 schools across the county.

“The front-end collection vehicle utilized to service the recycling at local schools has reached the end of its useful life,” wrote Willma Bureau, contracts and collections supervisor with the County of Simcoe in her staff report.

“Therefore, maintaining the existing school program would require significant capital investment by the county to replace the vehicle.”

County staff estimate that a new collection vehicle would cost $330,000.

Complicating the issue is the still-unknown status of the provincial blue box program as a result of the Waste Free Ontario Act. The changes will result in the producers of printed paper and packaging becoming directly responsible for recycling in the province, however the date of implementation is still unknown. 

On Friday, the provincial government announced the appointment of special advisor David Lindsay to look into the way recycling and plastic waste are dealt with across the province. Lindsay is expected to provide a report to the provincial government on the matter this summer.

“In light of the potential that the county would not be responsible for recycling collection in the future there is significant risk in making a large capital purchase,” wrote Bureau.

A second option being considered is for the county to only deal with the organics portion going forward, selling off the county’s recycling collection vehicle at a depreciated cost to the school boards as well as their outdoor containment bins so they can run the recycling program themselves however they see fit.

The current agreements are set to expire on July 31, 2020.

While the current agreement has been for the school boards and the county to each shoulder 50 per cent of the operating costs of the program, according to the report that hasn’t been the case.

“Staff notes that the county funded a greater proportion of the program costs,” wrote Bureau.

In 2018, the school boards contributed $110,778. The county funded $156,960.

“The reason for the disparity... is due to the increasing cost of maintaining the aging front-end collection vehicle utilized for collection of the school recycling, as well as cost increases for organics collection and processing of materials,” wrote Bureau.

In the 2017-2018 school year, 101 tonnes of organics and 567 tonnes of recycling were collected at schools across the county through the program.

County council will be considering the two options during their June 11 meeting of committee of the whole. Any decision made at committee of the whole on Tuesday would still need to be ratified at the regular council meeting on June 25.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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