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Halifax city council talks trash, approves garbage contracts

After much scrapping, one company is left holding the bag

4 min read
caption The new five-year solid waste collection contracts will begin in July.
Avi Jacob

Halifax regional council has voted to award the majority of its solid waste distribution contracts to the Royal Environmental Group (REgroup), despite some councillor concerns.

Council debated these new contracts for more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon before moving to a private session. The contracts currently in place are set to expire at the end of June.

Coun. David Hendsbee raised the question of whether they were creating an “oligopoly situation” by awarding so much of the pie to REgroup.

In response, Andrew Philopoulos, manager of solid waste resources, said the city has a “transparent procurement process” and noted that each applicant was given “at least one collection area.”

Philopoulos explained that contracts are decided upon using a points system that allots 30 points for considerations that include equipment, maintenance and sustainability, along with 70 points for cost proposals. Financial statements are evaluated by “an independent financial consultant.”

The new solid waste collection contracts include a slate of new adjustments including mandatory diversity and inclusion training, monthly reporting on health and safety data, monthly reports on fuel consumption and mileage, and weekly recycling collection in Eastern Passage.

Solid waste collection is conducted across eight regional zones in Halifax. Contracts are signed for five-year terms. Currently, there are four companies servicing the municipality: the Royal Environmental Group (REgroup) in three zones; Green for Life Environmental  in three zones; and Leo J. Beazley and Eastern Shore Cartage in one zone each.

With the new contracts beginning in July, REgroup will take responsibility for five of the eight zones and GFL will reduce their coverage to a single zone alongside the Leo J. Beazley company and a new competitor, Miller Waste.

The total five-year bid price for these contracts is almost $76 million.

caption Halifax regional council has voted to award REgroup five of the eight zones for solid-waste collection.
Anastasia Payne

Hendsbee also called for an additional waste disposal depot between Musquodoboit Harbour and Cole Harbour.

“There’s way too much off-road dumping going on because people want to avoid the tipping fees,” he said. “We need to have a third solution there for people to get rid of their waste properly instead of indiscriminately throwing it away in the woods.”

Philopoulos said there is no plan in place for a third waste disposal depot, but he would “take that under advisement.”

Coun. Cathy Deagle Gammon raised the question of standardizing the use of blue carts.

“Really, [they’re] much safer in your communities. There’s lots of raccoons and coyotes and foxes. Even though we wash our garbage, it can sometimes get torn apart if you’re not careful,” she said.

Though the use of blue carts is common in provinces such as Ontario and Alberta, Philopoulos said it would cost the province up to $30 million to implement them in Halifax.

The province would have to “issue standardized carts across the municipality and equip the collection fleet with compatible equipment — carts are meant to be tipped by automation. They’re not meant to be tipped manually,” he said.

After an hour of discussion, council broke for a break and resolved to finish the issue in private. Upon returning from this meeting, they resolved to award these new contracts as planned.

All together, these companies will be responsible for servicing 140,000 homes and businesses in the Halifax Regional Municipality every week. The new contracts are set to expire in 2026.

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About the author

Kunal Chaudhary

Kunal Chaudhary is a reporter with The Signal based in Toronto, Ontario.

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