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Saskatoon green bins will likely be processed at city-owned facility in the future


The City of Saskatoon is considering the possibility of building its own organics processing facility after cancelling an agreement with a third-party contractor last year.

"The major reason we're doing this is to divert organic waste from the landfill, to extend the life of the landfill, and to reduce the methane gas that's produced when organic material breaks down," Ward 2 Coun. Hilary Gough said.

"Those goals haven't changed and a long-term processing facility needs to have those goals as the primary driver."

Councillors recommended city council opt to process organics in-house during the city's standing policy committee on environment, utilities, and corporate services on Tuesday.

"I think it provides the best possible outcome in terms of insulating residents from risk with respect to their costs and also delivers options that reduce the risk to the corporation," Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen said.

After years of debate and discussions at City Hall dating back to 2018, Saskatoon launched its curbside organics program in May 2023. The program saw initial success with an estimated 18,000 tonnes of waste diverted from the landfill in the first five months.

However, that success was overshadowed by bureaucratic issues behind the scenes. Just days before the program was set to launch, Green Prairie Environmental, the third-party contractor who was set to process the organic waste, was denied a permit to run its facility at its intended site roughly three years after successfully bidding on the contract.

The company owns a landfill in the RM of Corman Park and planned to compost adjacent to that site. However, the RM of Corman Park voted against giving a discretionary use permit, which left the city without a site to process compost and forced the city into striking a deal with Loraas.

The city said GPE "defaulted" on its contract after other arrangements couldn't be made, and the city council tasked administration with exploring a city-owned organics processing facility.

Initial costs to build the facility are estimated at $22.1 million, funded through a loan repaid by utility fees. The facility could be operational in 2026.

All options on the table range anywhere from 25 per cent to 62 per cent more expensive per month than the original contract awarded to GPE with the city-owned facility being the most economically beneficial, according to documents from the city administration.

Running organics status quo would cost the city $4.56 million annually, with a per green cart per month fee of $3.57.

Sending out another request for proposals and having a third party handle all organics would cost the city $4.68 million annually with a per green cart per month cost of $3.57.

A city-owned facility would save the city up to $1.6 million every year with an expected cost of $3.1 million annually and a per green cart per month fee of $2.69.

Altogether, the cost to residents for a green cart would be $8.32 for a city-run facility compared to $7.78 a month under GPE's agreement.

"The potential to have a program that even in 2026 would have a 50 cent per month impact on residents based on our estimates right now," Mayor Charlie Clark said.

Administration says the city could benefit because costs would be more predictable rather than being charged for tonnage by a private company. Additionally, the city would be looking to recover costs with the green cart utility and not be seeking a profit.

"With a city facility the operating costs are largely fixed, including labor and capital payments and increased throughput of material helps to drive the cost per tonne down," Angela Gardiner, the general manager of utilities and environment, said.

A city-operated organics facility would cost the city 32 per cent less than the other two options.

Gardiner also said limited competition in the market would likely lead to higher costs for a third party to operate organics.

Ward 4 Coun. Troy Davies was the lone dissenting vote at the committee Tuesday. He would like to see how limiting organics pickups in the winter months could further bring the costs down further. Administration won't have that information available until June.

The matter will be discussed at the council's regular business meeting at the end of the month before any decision is made. Top Stories

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