Exclusive: How a retired investment banker made trash hauling cheaper for Torontonians

Toronto’s city council spent years in the hands of councilor Gary Crawford, who fought with administration over who should pay for garbage pickup and council’s own office costs. Crawford, who was elected mayor in 2002, instituted sweeping reforms that cut the city’s budget by 10 percent. He also oversaw a group of private waste haulers, members of whom, he discovered, were booked to collect almost as much city-run garbage as the city overall.

When a spike in residential residential garbage pickup after the 2008-2009 recession cut into city government’s ability to pay for daily residential garbage pickup, Crawford sought the help of veteran Toronto entrepreneur Roy Clarke. Clarke assembled a collection of private haulers, many of whom would have been paid only based on the number of days the councilroom had more cleaning crews working than the private haulers could handle. Not all of the private haulers managed to agree to participate. Some refused to disclose their rates, which Mr. Clarke had been required to keep confidential by law. (He did so, eventually, but few others did.) In the course of the negotiations, council wound up paying the private haulers less than they were paying the city.

While most garbage collection is now done by city employees, private haulers still have a say in the pricing of residential garbage pickup.

A report prepared for Toronto Mayor John Tory showed the private haulers saving a total of $74.5 million in fees between 2014 and 2017, when Tory was city council’s longest-serving mayor. Mr. Tory noted Thursday that had Mr. Crawford used his system to cover all household waste, the report suggested the savings would have amounted to $91 million.

A council committee is now holding a workshop to determine whether city contracts should be altered. One idea being considered is to tie the fees for private haulers to Ontario’s new cap-and-trade program. The program, which aims to reduce emissions and reduce costs for industry, recently began charging fees based on a customer’s emissions. Ontario’s program currently reduces the amount of garbage small businesses and incinerators send to landfills by capping the amount of waste they can emit.

Read the full story at Toronto Star.


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