By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed at a May 12 meeting of Minden Hills council, held virtually via Zoom and YouTube.
After the success of the FoodCycler waste diversion pilot programs in Dysart et al and Algonquin Highlands, which both saw more than 100 residents sign up for a lottery to purchase the countertop composters at a reduced rate, staff and council are expecting to see the same popularity in Minden Hills.
The FoodCycler is a device the size of a bread maker that can handle about two litres of food waste at a time, and uses electricity to quickly compost food waste into a finished compost product, according to a report by Nikki Payne, manager of waste facilities.
“Through the use of electricity, the device dries and grinds food waste into a dry, odourless, nutrient-dense by-product that is significantly reduced in weight and volume,” reads her report. “The end product can be used as a fertilizer, and is free from bacteria, seeds and food-borne pathogens. Each ‘cycle’ of composting takes approximately four to eight hours, and uses approximately 0.8 kilowatt hours.”
While the FoodCyclers retail for $500 each, that cost is reduced to $300 through subsidies offered by FoodCycle for the pilot program. Minden Hills township will pay $125 toward the remainder of the cost of each device, while participating residents will pay $175. There are 100 units available.
“As we know food waste can be at least 30 per cent normally of residential food composition if not more,” Payne said to council. “We’re definitely trying to find ways of reducing the amount of waste going to landfill, it’s always a benefit.”
The FoodCycler can divert at least two tonnes of food waste in its lifetime, an overall food waste reduction of 200 tonnes through the pilot program in Minden.
Councillors approved Option 1 presented by staff, which was the purchase of 100 FoodCyclers without add-ons – and additional costs – including replacement filter sets for each units, which would have increased the cost to residents from $175 to $200. (For more information about the program, which launched on May 18, visit the Minden Hills township website).
The overall cost to the township for the program is $14,000 plus taxes. Payne’s report notes the subsidies in place in 2021 are no longer available this year, and the township had budgeted for an initial cost of $25,000 with a revenue from residential contributions to $10,000 for a total cost to the townshp of $15,000.
“Option 1 is the only option that would keep us within that net cost range, without increasing the resident’s portion of the costs,” said Payne’s report. “Option 2 would cause the resident’s portion of the cost to be raised to $200. To keep this program affordable, that option is not recommended.”
A 12-week program will ask participants for information on their experience with the device.
“We’re really hoping we get a lot of positive feedback, people interested,” said Payne.
Councillors Bob Carter and Jean Neville asked about getting more devices, for those who aren’t successful with the lottery.
“Just because this is the beginning doesn’t mean it’s the end,” said Payne, adding that if there was interest, council could look to budgeting more for 2023 to continue the program.
Councillor Pam Sayne asked if there were ways the township could measure the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions accurately to show the cost benefit and environmental considerations.
“At estimated market costs of $100/tonne of waste, these diverted tonnes have the opportunity to save the township $20,000, meaning that this pilot program would provide a net profit of $5,000,” said Payne’s report. “Every tonne of food waste diverted from landfill is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 tonnes of CO2e. Based on this, 100 households could divert approximately 260 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Scotch Line landfill survey
Councillors agreed to award the Ontario Landfill Survey of the Scotch Line landfill site to Coe Fisher Cameron Land Surveyors, out of Lindsay, as a sole source procurement after Payne said they were the only surveyors who had time to do the project.
The township received the amended Environmental Compliance Approval for the Scotch Line landfill site at the end of February, allowing the township to proceed with the design and construction of the Scotch Line transfer station. To be compliant with the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, a plan of survey prepared, signed and sealed by an Ontario Land Surveyor showing the area of the site where waste has been or is to be deposited on the landfill site needs to be submitted by the end of August, according to Payne’s report.
Coe Fisher Cameron will be surveying the entire Scotch Line landfill property at 2038 Scotch Line Road, including the existing waste boundaries, all watercourses onsite, the property limits and the hydro easement running along the south limit. The proposed project cost is $25,000 plus work, though there could be variables in the costing depending on site unknowns including watercourses, conditions and brush.
Disconnect from work
CAO/clerk Trisha McKibbin spoke to the new Ontario Working for Workers Act, 2021, which has made amendments to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 for employers with 25 or more employees.
“The aim of a Disconnect from Work policy is to encourage all employees to disconnect from job duties, and work-related communication when they are not expected to work and to encourage employees to balance work, family and personal responsibilities,” McKibbin told council.
The term “disconnecting from work” means not engaging in work-related communications including emails, telephone calls, video calls, or sending or reviewing other messages.
McKibbin said an employee’s ability to disconnect depends on the township’s operational needs, and the duties and obligations of the employee’s position subject to their contract or applicable collective agreement.
Councillor Jean Neville, asked, tongue-in-cheek, if the policy includes councillors.
“Does this cover council members as well, so we don’t have to listen to complaints during weekends and after 8 o’clock at night, kind of thing?”
“This is a fabulous point, what this is, it doesn’t impact what your regular roles and responsibilities are of your position so as a councillor your accessibility to the public … but it does not lay out strict parameters for that,” said McKibbin.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell said she had had a similar thought.
“I think we actually do need to take that into consideration and make the public aware that we are not accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we do have lives outside of work, we have families and children that we are responsible for and if I don’t answer someone on a weekend, I no longer feel guilty for that – unless there’s something on fire, then that’s completely different,” she said. “Good points, Councillor Neville, we need to take some mental health days for ourselves as well and I want the public to be aware of that.”
McKibbin said the policy also encourages employees to use vacation and sick days as such, and not use them to work from home.
Councillor Pam Sayne said she has found the public to be respectful of times they call, generally speaking.
“I’ve been very fortunate with that,” she said. “If there is an issue with dogs constantly barking on the weekend, I don’t begrudge people trying to get ahold of me and see what we can do. I think that kind of comes with the terrain, we don’t have a regular work schedule and I think that’s part of learning the rhythm of being here.”