City of Lethbridge launches organics bylaw to mixed reactions

Inside Umami Shop in Lethbridge, Alta on Jan. 25, 2023. Manager Sven Roeder says the new bylaw is a positive step for sustainability in the city.  (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)
Inside Umami Shop in Lethbridge, Alta on Jan. 25, 2023. Manager Sven Roeder says the new bylaw is a positive step for sustainability in the city. (Ose Irete/CBC - image credit)

Next month, the city of Lethbridge will launch a mandatory organics and recycling program for businesses. While there is a lot of support for the initiative, some in the business community have concerns about how it is being carried out.

Set to begin on Feb. 1, the program is part of the city's plan to reduce commercial and industrial waste in Lethbridge by 45 per cent by 2030.

Businesses have to separate their organic and recyclable material — concrete, cardboard and hard plastics — and provide training to employees, hire haulers to move organic waste and file annual reports.

Loads with more than 25 per cent recycled and organic products will pay a surcharge starting Sept. 5, 2023.

"ICI (Industrial Commercial and Institutional) and C&D (Construction and Demolition) generate around two-thirds of the garbage in Lethbridge," said Felipe Pereira de Albuquerque, a waste diversion engineer.

"So even small reductions on those sectors represent a big impact in overall Lethbridge waste generation."

Program a long time coming, says business owner

For Sven Roeder, the program is a long time coming.

"In many parts of the world it's already [been] mandatory for a few decades, so it's a good thing that they do that here as well," he said.

Roeder is a manager at Umami Shop, an international grocer and resto-cafe. He says sustainability is a priority so the shop already separates their organics and recycling.

Ose Irete/CBC
Ose Irete/CBC

With the new program businesses like his will need to take on additional steps like signage, reporting and mandatory training.

"It's just extra work but it needs to be done [in order] to be more sustainable," Roeder said.

'Implementation needs work' says Chamber of Commerce

Despite supporting a recycling program, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce voiced their concerns in a statement.

"While we applaud a program in concept, in implementation of Business Waste, Recycling & Organics program, there was insufficient consultation with the business community," they said.

"The resulting program is felt to be performed with overreach and places an undue cost on Lethbridge businesses to remain in compliance."

The city completed their initial stakeholder engagement in 2014 and conducted information sessions in March of 2020.

Submitted by  Cyndi Bester
Submitted by Cyndi Bester

There have also been subsequent information sessions in 2022.

However, chamber CEO Cyndi Bester believes the business landscape in Lethbridge has changed since the initial plan and during the March engagement many business owners were pre-occupied with the pandemic.

Businesses have to file annual reports about their compliance,

"There's so many different areas of red tape that we're trying to reduce, this is adding a barrier to business in a way," said Bester.

Additional costs inevitable

Streatside Eatery owner Steve Oseen says the program is a "great idea" but he recognizes there will be growing pains.

"Initially it's gonna take a little time and a little bit of training because it's been done the same way for so many years."

He also says there will be additional costs to labeling, separate containers, and paying for a hauler and possible surcharges when the initial grace period ends.               

The city will host an open house on the issue on Jan. 31 and Pereira de Albuquerque says staff will be on hand to assist throughout the transition.