1,100 entities that were previously exempt from Toronto city garbage fees will now be forced to pay from July 1st. These include parishes, food banks, shelters and other services to the poor.

Garbage fees for Toronto food banks, shelters a 'slap in the face'

  • May 17, 2012

TORONTO - Parishes, food banks, shelters and other services to the poor are going to be hit with bills for garbage pickup in Toronto starting July 1.

They're all part of 1,100 entities that were previously exempt from the garbage fees the city charges to businesses. City Hall will raise an extra $2.9 million per year by 2015 when the new fees are fully implemented.

Hitting parishes, food banks and Out of the Cold programs with unexpected bills for garbage pickup is "definitely a concern," said archdiocese of Toronto spokesman Neil MacCarthy.

The churches aren't looking for a free ride, and rectories already pay the standard household fees for getting rid of their trash. But a parish running an Out of the Cold program could suddenly have to start paying for garbage that results from feeding, clothing and sheltering the poor.

Toronto's St. Vincent de Paul Society is looking at a minimum $20,000 garbage bill in the first year of the new fees, executive director Louise Coutu told The Catholic Register.

"It will come out of service," said Coutu in an e-mail.

Shelters and the St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores will be hardest hit.

"The shelters are funded by the city. We will ask the city for an increase (in funding) to pay the city for garbage removal," Coutu said. "Seems inefficient on many levels."

For St. Vincent de Paul, part of the problem is that its thrift stores have little control over how much waste they must put out. People donate all kinds of items, many that cannot be reused or sold.

"Plus, we get a tremendous amount of after-hours dumping outside our locations. Construction material is the most popular donation," said Coutu. "In the past we were seen by the city as partners in managing and diverting waste. Now we will be penalized for our participation."

Capuchin Brother John Frampton, director of St. Francis' Table calls the garbage fees "a slap in the face."

"If the city wants to be responsible for feeding the hungry, let's see how they might feel about it," Frampton said.

This year, St. Francis' Table will have to pay $100 for each of its four bins. In 2013 the fee rises to $300 per bin, then $600 in 2014 and $800 per bin by 2015. City waste management staff has offered to audit St. Francis Table's waste and recommend ways of reducing the garbage the restaurant for the poor in Parkdale puts out. But Frampton's staff have been separating garbage, recyclables and compostable material for years.

"It's not going to make a difference. We're still going to be charged per bin," he said.

Toronto's waste management system generated a surplus of $37.2 million last year, part of a city surplus of $292 million.

The decision to start charging charities was buried in Toronto's budget, passed last December.

"There was no advance warning, no consultation at all about this," said John Campey, Social Planning Council of Toronto executive director. "Notice to affected organizations was mailed out on Nov. 3 and the meeting at which it was debated was Nov. 10. Only one organization actually received the notice in time to speak to it."

"There will be less food in people's stomachs as a result of these charges," said Campey.

The executive committee of City Council won't take up the issue until September. The first realistic opportunity to reverse the charges will be when council debates the 2013 budget in November, said Campey. City waste management staff have been asked to report to the executive committee about measures that could help those agencies that receive non-reusable donations.

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