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2005 Waste — Co-winner 1

City of Hamilton, Ontario

Solid Waste Management Master Plan (SWMMP)

Population: 490,268

The SWMMP is a long-range plan that will extend the lifespan of Hamilton's landfill by diverting 65 per cent of waste by 2008. The plan's 19 recommendations range from public education, to bylaw improvements, to recycling and organic waste programs. For example, improvements to its leaf and yard waste program resulted in a 72 per cent increase in material collected, diverting almost three times more material in 2004 than in 2000. Hamilton is also partnering with the Region of Niagara to pool resources and explore alternative disposal options, such as biological treatment or energy-from-waste facilities.


The City of Hamilton had slated its Solid Waste Reduction Unit (SWARU) for closure. The SWARU had been in operation since 1972, producing energy from waste to heat the city's wastewater treatment plant and generating electricity for the facility and to export to the city's electrical grid.

In 2001, Hamilton's waste diversion rate was 16 per cent. With the planned closure of the SWARU, city officials feared that its landfill would be significantly compromised if they could not find an alternative waste solution to deal with the more than 230,000 tonnes of waste generated in the region each year.

Work began to develop a long-term strategy to deal with the waste in a socially, economically and environmentally acceptable manner.


  • Hamilton has reached a 28 per cent waste diversion rate, up from 16 per cent in 2001, and has set a target of 42 per cent by the end of 2005.
  • The city has extended the landfill's lifespan, saving millions of dollars it would have incurred if it had been forced to site a new space. Estimates to site a new landfill are typically in the $100-million range.
  • The city produces and distributes an annual report card to update residents on the SWMMP's progress.
  • The city improved its recycling program for multi-residential buildings and is considering how to implement the Green Cart Project for apartments. Its first community recycling centre opened in the summer of 2005. "To date, we've focused on curbside recycling, but multi-residential buildings will be key if we're to achieve 65 per cent diversion," says Ms. Goodger.
  • The city is now applying experiences gained over the course of developing the SWMMP in other departments. The city's transit group, for example, has established a steering committee and a public advisory committee to create a transit master plan.

Lessons Learned

  • INVOLVE THE PUBLIC. The city's public advisory committee and task force were instrumental in developing the SWMMP recommendations and programs. "We involved the public from the beginning. Now, when we present action items before council, they know that it's what their constituents want, and that carries more weight," says Ms. Goodger.
  • LEARN FROM OTHERS. Ms. Goodger believes that the city has likely saved years of planning by visiting other municipalities, seeing their solutions first-hand and adapting them for Hamilton's needs.
  • EDUCATE EARLY AND OFTEN. The more frequently a city can communicate its waste management plan to the public, the better people are able to absorb the information. "So much information is coming at people, so you have to keep the messages simple," Ms. Goodger says. "We always talk about the waste diversion target and how every resident has to do their part to reach that's been said so many times that even the local media use it."
  • TAKE ACTION WHILE YOU PLAN. Rather than spend years developing a plan and then implementing it, Hamilton chose to do both at the same time. "Recycling is a learned behaviour, and you can't expect people to make all the changes immediately," says Ms. Goodger. "You need to make changes as you go along and build up the theme of waste diversion. The key was to have the vision in place and then move systematically to implement it."


  • Internal city departments involved included the waste management division and the city's finance and purchasing group. The city has also established political sub-committees, including the SWMMP steering committee and, most recently, a joint committee with the Region of Niagara.


  • Citizen Public Advisory Committee
  • Partners for Climate Protection
  • Green Municipal Fund
  • Waste Reduction Task Force
  • Region of Niagara
Page Updated: 21/12/2015