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Residents, some councillors opposed to possibility of using clear plastic garbage bags in Ottawa

A policy idea that could come into effect in future years is getting pushback from residents and some members of city council.

The city’s environment and climate change committee approved the new Solid Waste Master Plan on Tuesday, which will outline the long-term solutions for Ottawa’s garbage, recycling and organic waste. The Solid Waste Master Plan proposes a series of initiatives to extend the life of the Trail Road Landfill to 2049, including organizing new repair cafes, offering recycling in parks and requiring green bins in multi-residential buildings.

It also says clear bags for curbside garbage will be considered in 2027, “when effectiveness of Council approved 3-item firm limit is reviewed.” A report outlining potential options says a clear bag garbage program with a ban on recycling and organics from the landfill would result in a 33 per cent garbage tonnage reduction by year five and increase waste diversion rates by up to 10 per cent.

But residents who spoke to CTV News Ottawa expressed concerns about the proposed idea.

“I think it’s kind of an ugly idea. I mean, it’s not going to look that pretty. And I don’t know if it really stopped the dishonest people anyway,” said Alexis Milne. “They’ll find a different way to get around it. And I think it’s a huge expense… I just think we could spend our money in a smarter way.”

Lisa McCrum also said she was concerned about privacy.

“It’s like invading your privacy. People can see what you’re throwing out. People can see what’s in your garbage.”

Coun. Shawn Menard, the chair of the environment and climate change committee, said Tuesday that other municipalities have implemented a clear bag policy for garbage.

“Clear plastic bags, I think, were the most effective when we researched of all the solutions and really, I think, the cheapest to the municipality, there are no tags involved,” Menard said.

Other members of council, including the mayor, disagree.

Coun. Allan Hubley says he thinks it will lead to neighbours spying on neighbours.

“Well, I don’t like that because what we’ve found in looking at other municipalities that have clear bags is that what, in fact, you’re doing is encouraging neighbors to report. Others go around and look at the bags. If you see a pop can in that bag, you call and report it in conjunction with the clear bags,” he said.

“To me, it’s a lot easier if we just move to incineration, take it away, turn it all into energy and provide a benefit to the community.”

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe posted to social media on Wednesday that now is not the time to consider clear bags.

“Ottawa residents are still preparing for the new rules about garbage and recycling collection that will be implemented this fall. This is not the time to consider additional measures such as clear garbage bags,” he said.

Clear garbage bags are not included in the upcoming changes this fall, but are part of the Solid Waste Master Plan as an option that could be used if the three-item limit proves ineffective in cutting the amount of trash going to the landfill.

–With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Josh Pringle

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