Ottawa tests public and private garbage collection. Public wins

Ottawa, Ontario

In 1999, the City of Ottawa divided its garbage collection services into five zones. In four zones, waste collection was contracted out, while collection in the downtown core remained public.

Over the next decade, the downtown service proved to be the best deal. A 2009 internal audit showed Ottawa had saved over $5.3 million since 1999 by keeping waste collection in the downtown zone public.

In-house collection brings cost savings

In 2012, the city renewed its contract for the downtown zone and city workers took over collection in a second zone in Ottawa’s east end. By 2013, city staff reported additional savings of almost $700,000 in the two city-run zones in the first year of the new contracts. “Ottawa’s taxpayers can be proud of the impressive operational savings achieved through the hard work of the City and its labour union partners,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said in a press release. “This partnership has provided quality waste removal services for our residents while achieving significant saving since 2006.”

Few complaints, too

In addition to the cost savings, residents in the city-run zones were happier with the services delivered by city workers compared with those in the contracted-out zones. Complaints in the city-run zones averaged one call per 1,000 households, 35 per cent lower than the 1.5 complaints per 1,000 households received in the remaining zones. Service in one of the contracted zones was so poor, the city was forced to levy fines against the contractor, Waste Management, after continuous late or missed pickups.