Toronto's blue box program is the latest initiative to face money-saving cuts, with a plan to limit curbside collection to what residents can cram into their recycling bin.
The move is part of next year's proposed solid waste budget and is expected to save the city about $500,000. The measure would end the long-standing practice that allows city residents to place any overflow from their recycling bins beside their blue box in clear bags. It is expected to eliminate three positions – workers required to staff "chaser trucks" that collect the recycling overflow.
The proposed change, which will go before the city's executive committee later this month, got the approval of the budget committee on Thursday, after members listened to the objections voiced by environmentalists.
The same committee also voted to slash the number of community environment days held each year to 11 from 44 for a cost savings of $122,000.
Emily Alfred with the Toronto Environmental Alliance predicted the new limits will result in more recyclable materials entering landfills as residents with extra bottles or boxes opt to put them in their garbage bin rather than storing them for the next recycling day two weeks later.
She also questioned the savings targets provided by city staff, who noted that about 10 per cent of households have overflow bags on recycling days.
A staff report notes that residents can "upsize" their blue bins for free if the new limit is a problem.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city's public works committee, also noted that residents can obtain a second blue bin if one is not enough to meet their needs.
But Ms. Alfred said the city will have to cover the cost of supplying the extra bins and of collecting materials from two recycling containers.
"I don't really see where the savings comes in," she said. "We are still collecting the same volume of waste, we are just using more bins to do it."
Councillor Minnan-Wong said collecting recycling not in bins takes longer and the city also is charged extra by its private contractors for the service.