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Students take deep dive into North Bay's household waste

The Canadore students discovered a large amount of recyclable material including pop bottles, paper, cardboard and aluminum cans, as well as textiles, leaf/yard waste and household hazardous waste in the bags
2022 06 22 Student Waste Audit (Supplied)
(L-R) Jason Chirico, Makenna Quizon and Tim Coleman, students from Canadore College’s School of Environmental Studies, recently conducted a week-long audit of the household waste in North Bay that’s picked up at the curb and taken to the Merrick Landfill site.

The City of North Bay, with the assistance of Canadore College’s School of Environmental Studies, is taking a deep dive into the household waste that’s picked up at the curb for a better understanding of the sort of materials going into our landfill.

As part of a recent week-long waste audit, students from Canadore’s School of Environmental Studies sorted and categorized the materials from randomly-selected bags of garbage arriving at the Merrick Landfill site. In order to capture a sample representative of every neighbourhood in North Bay, a total of 80 bags were audited — four from each truck that arrived at the landfill during the week of June 20–24.

The materials were divided into two main categories: waste not included in the City’s diversion program that should be disposed of at the landfill; and, waste included in the City’s diversion program that should not be disposed of at the landfill.

Examples of materials that are a part of the City’s current waste diversion program include leaves and other yard waste, textiles, household hazardous waste, electronics and recyclable materials such as plastics, cans, glass, cardboard and paper.

See related: Council backs changes to local waste collection

In September 2021, North Bay City Council unanimously adopted changes to the waste diversion strategy for the City of North Bay that lowered the limit of the curbside collection of waste (without bag tags) to two bags and/or receptacles from the current limit of three. The change came into effect on Jan. 1. Tags for extra bags beyond the new limit also doubled in price to $2. The industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) sectors also saw their limits drop from 12 to 10 receptacles. 

"Unfortunately, the first days of sorting showed a large amount of recyclable material including pop bottles, paper, cardboard and aluminum cans being thrown out.  There were also textiles, leaf/yard waste and household hazardous waste found in the bags," said Environmental Control Officer Victoria Thomas.

See: Banning collection of textiles another way to extend life of landfill

The group of Canadore students will be providing a report with their complete findings, which will be used to help update the City’s Waste Diversion Strategy. Past audits have indicated as much as 40 per cent of residential waste arriving at the landfill is recyclable material.

“The final results of the audit will give us a good understanding of the City’s current diversion rate," added Thomas. "This will help determine the areas we need to focus on for future programs, education and outreach."   

See also: Waste not, want not: Committee sorts through Merrick Landfill proposal

In March 2021, despite some opposition, a majority of the members of North Bay City Council voted in favour of bringing the operations of the City-owned Merrick Landfill in-house, as of January 1. Officials anticipated a $1.12 million overall annual operating budget for the landfill and average annual savings of $180,000 realized by keeping the work in-house, including the creation of positions for City of North Bay employees, instead of employing a contractor.