Saint John’s new curbside recycling program has strong first year

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Waste Wise recycling
Saint John previously used a centralized recycling depot system, but is now fully curbside. Photo Credit: City of Saint John

The New Brunswick City of Saint John has already made back some $500,000 of its $3-million capital investment in the first year of an overhauled waste program that introduced curbside recycling and bag limits.

Local officials say the amount of waste taken to landfill dropped by 37% (4,000 tonnes) over 2022-2023, the first year of the new Waste Wise program. 

Saint John previously used a centralized recycling depot system that offered options such as large communal recycling bins in grocery store parking lots. Since the fall of 2022, it’s been fully curbside.

Despite an 8.8% increase in the per-tonne costs to dispose of garbage at the Crane Mountain Landfill, Saint John spent $260,000 less in solid waste tipping fees in the 2023 fiscal year.

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Approximately $238,000 in revenues was achieved in 2023 from the sale of bag tags, as there is now a one-bag limit in place.

“The success of Waste Wise is attributed largely to the introduction of curbside recycling and the caps in place for garbage that residents can put out,” announced Tim O’Reilly, director of public works for Saint John, in a statement. “This has encouraged people to embrace the program. A huge thank you to the community for participating and adapting. These results were achieved with your commitment.”

Saint John officials said the brand-new curbside recycling collection program was successfully introduced without requiring investment from higher property taxes due to the $260,000 that was saved from tipping fees.

Notably, Saint John council decided to have its current waste collection fleet pull double duty instead of investing in new equipment. The same fleet of garbage trucks are used to collect garbage and compost by day, then recycling at night. Safety and efficiency targets were met by introducing the use of mechanical lifting devices on the trucks and a complete shift to single-person pickups, officials said.

Composting levels have also increased since the waste collection program was enhanced. Overall, compost by weight has increased by 39% relative to the average of the prior three years. The increased use of compost alone accounts for approximately 25% of the diverted garbage, officials said.

May 1, 2024 will be another significant milestone for Waste Wise. On this date, the responsibility for the cost of collecting recycling from Saint John’s 22,000 Waste Wise customers shifts from taxpayers to companies that generate paper and packaging products with the expansion of the provincial Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Program.

May 1, 2025 is the expected date when households of apartments larger than four units in Saint John will begin to receive curbside recycling as part of the EPR.

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