Br. John Frampton, who runs Toronto’s St. Francis Table, says it’s a “crime” churches and charities could be forced to pay for garbage service in the City of Toronto. Photo by Vanessa Santilli

Churches, charities could lose free garbage pickup

  • December 7, 2011

TORONTO - After years of free service, churches, shelters, charities and non-profit organizations could be on the hook as the City of Toronto plans to start charging a fee for trash pickup.

The city has said there will be no increase for homeowners in terms of their garbage pickup, but parishioners may be asked to give a little bit to help offset the new fees for churches, said Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the archdiocese of Toronto.

“So really, you’re just going back to the same people to ask for more to support this change,” he said.

The proposal is one of the items on the table as the city works on its 2012 budget. A long list of cuts and increased service fees are on tap as the city struggles to find ways to balance its budget.

MacCarthy said while he understands the city is looking for ways to realize some cost efficiencies, the new proposal is going to have significant implications on the roughly 125 parishes within city limits in the archdiocese of Toronto.

“It really depends on the frequency of pickup at a church for garbage and… the number of bins they might have at a church,” he said. “So if it’s weekly with a bin, they’re talking about $800 a year.”

But it’s difficult to say how many parishes would be affected by this as some use city services while others use private garbage collection, said MacCarthy.

The city wants to start charging a fee for this service “in order to make the system fair overall and to prompt those new to the fee system to improve their waste diversion efforts,” according to a document sent to non-residential customers.

For a curbside bin emptied bi-weekly, the cost is $403, weekly is $806 and twice weekly is $1,612.

The changes would be phased in, with a yearly 25-per-cent increase effective July 1, 2012 and full trash pickup fees effective Jan. 1, 2015.

St. Francis Table, a ministry that provides meals for the less fortunate in Parkdale, would be one of the agenices affected by the trash pickup fee. Br. John Frampton, who runs St. Francis Table, said it’s a crime that charities and church groups are being singled out to pick up the city’s costs.

“We try to keep it to a minimum,” he said. “We compost, we take care of the paper and plastics. We comply with garbage bag content and I just think it’s another money grab to pay for services that are costing too much.”

The poor are getting poorer, he said.

“We are feeding the hungry here six days a week,” said Frampton. “And other groups are doing justice amidst injustice that’s being done by the government that should be responsible to these people.

“St. Francis Table is responsible for feeding the hungry of Toronto and this is the appreciation we get.”

The proposal also includes charging transfer station tipping fees of $100 per tonne of waste to previously exempt non-profits, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

“With the collection, we get a lot of really generous donors that are really careful about what they donate, but we also get a lot of stuff that’s just not usable at all and it has to go to the dump,” said Louise Coutu, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Toronto.

“For years, the Society has had an arrangement with the city where we don’t pay tipping fees because it’s realized that this stuff is our responsibility, but if it weren’t going to us to be sorted, there would probably be more going directly to the dump,” she said.

Coutu estimates this will cost an additional $20,000 on its annual budget.

“It’s not just the tipping fee we’re paying, it’s our truck out there, our guys,” she said. “So it is expensive for us. We’ve seen it as part of our service. You can’t look in everyone’s bag when they’re donating to you.”

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