Sunday, April 21, 2024

A Fifty Cent Increase For Bag Tags? Let the Complaints Begin

By Stephen Vance, Editor

You have to hand it to bag tags – for a simple sticker, they can sure get people worked up. In 2009, when the $2 pay-as-you-throw bag tag program was implemented, there were many that were convinced that the move would result in our ditches and parking lots being used for waste disposal rather than pay the dreaded $2 fee to place a bag of trash at the curb.

I recall one meeting in particular, held at the Meaford & St. Vincent Community Centre. A heavily attended budget meeting was simmering with discontent, and much of the frustration was aimed squarely at the proposal to do away with the free bag each week and instead force Meaford residents to pay $2 for every bag of trash they dragged to the curb for collection.

Some residents were angry enough to raise their voices when addressing members of council and staff on the issue of having to pay $2 for every bag set to the curb. Some insisted that the implementation of the fee would force people to dump their trash in ditches, or burn it in their backyards.

That didn’t happen of course. What did happen?

For starters, as far as I’m aware, not a single resident of the municipality went broke due to $2 garbage bag tags. Even those who put the maximum two trash bags to the curb on collection day every second week are only coughing up $104 per year, or about $8.65 per month. However, those residents who put in a little extra effort find that they don’t have to purchase many bag tags at all. Our own household, for example, on average drags one bag per month to the curb for collection, so our annual bag tag costs amount to less than $30. And there are many households like our own that have managed to reduce their trash output and in the process have avoided the burden of purchasing large numbers of bag tags. The fifty cent increase proposed in the draft budget will cost our family about six bucks. Per year.

So, the ditches didn’t overflow with abandoned trash, and nobody went broke despite the dire warnings in 2009.

Just a few short years after the much maligned pay-as-you-throw system was implemented, Meaford earned the top spot in the entire province for waste diversion. Not number one compared to similar municipalities, number one of 444 Ontario municipalities, and we’ve remained at or near the top of that list since.

Meaford’s waste diversion success can be attributed to more than the introduction of a bag tag program. The blue box program has been a part of our lives for decades now, and the participation rate in the curbside organics collection program has been embraced by the community. It is quite likely that the $2 bag tag helped enormously with the community buying into the green bin program, as residents found ways to reduce the amount of trash they simply tossed into a green garbage bag.

Before people get too worked up about the proposed fifty cent per tag increase, and before people start making silly statements at the upcoming public budget meetings, let’s just put it all into perspective. The municipal operating budget includes more than $12 million worth of things to complain about, and indeed there are always some budget items worthy of complaint, but a fifty cent increase on the cost of garbage bag tags that have been the same price for the past six years is not one of them.

Even for those who haven’t figured out that in 2015 there is no reason any family should be placing two bags of garbage to the curb on every collection day, the proposed increase will cost just $26 per year, or $2.17 per month. Those who in this day and age are still generating that much household waste should be thankful they aren’t paying much, much more.

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