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2007 Waste – Co-winner 1

City of Hamilton

Green Cart Program

Population: 500,736

In 2001, Hamilton city council approved a solid waste management master plan (SWMMP) that aimed to divert 65 per cent of waste from landfills by 2008. The Green Cart program, implemented in 2006, is an integral part of this plan. Following small-scale demonstration projects, green carts were distributed to residents between April and June 2006. Since then organic waste, separated at source, has been collected each week from about 150,000 households and delivered to the newly constructed central composting facility, which can process up to 60,000 tonnes per year. In its first six months, the facility received 22,565 tonnes of material. Curbside waste audits after just the first three months showed a 55 per cent diversion rate, compared with only 33 per cent before the project's implementation. Along with substantial environmental benefits, the city has profited financially by avoiding the expense of creating another landfill.


Hamilton's population is distributed over an area of 112,835 hectares. While 64 per cent of this area is agricultural or rural land, the majority of citizens live in the urban centre. There are 192,910 households, of which approximately 30 per cent live in multi-residential units.

Building on the city's long-range sustainability plan, Vision 2020, the SWMMP contains a list of recommendations for managing municipal waste over the next 25 years. Central to these recommendations is the goal to divert 65 per cent of waste away from landfills by 2008. Since household organic and yard waste make up 43 per cent of all waste generated by the municipality, a city-wide compost collection program was seen as essential to achieving this objective. By removing organic waste from the landfill, the city aimed to reduce leachate and to curb emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). The city also wanted to extend the life of Hamilton's Glanbrook landfill site, since the cost of finding a new landfill site has been estimated at $100 million.

Planning for the program began more than four years prior to the start date and two demonstration trials were carried out to evaluate the logistics of collection, using a limited number of households. An external project manager was hired to oversee the planning and implementation of the program. Four additional staff were hired for 18 months to provide customer service support via telephone and in person, and 10 permanent waste collection positions were added to the city's contingent. Ten co-op students provided community outreach services over an eight-month period, educating citizens about the program.


  • Locating the central composting facility in an industrial area, on a former brownfield site, created a minimal impact on the community.
  • The program has substantially extended the life of the city's Glanbrook landfill site, saving the approximate $100 million cost of creating a new landfill.
  • By collecting organics along with garbage, additional vehicle use and the resulting GHG emissions were avoided. GHG landfill emissions have also been curtailed by diverting organic waste.
  • Progress has been monitored through daily weighing and regular waste audits. Between June 1 and November 30, 2006, 22,565 tonnes of organic waste were received. Curbside audits showed a monthly diversion rate of 55 per cent in August 2006, a notable increase from the 33 per cent rate prior to the program.
  • Between August and November 2006, 3,625 tonnes of compost, which met the highest quality standard of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), were marketed.
  • Since the organics program began, the amount of recyclables collected by the city's Blue Box program has risen by seven per cent, indicating a growing environmental awareness in the community and concern for waste reduction.

Lessons Learned

  • CUSTOMIZE YOUR COMMUNICATIONS. The "Green Team" provided essential face-to-face communication with citizens as the green carts were being delivered to their homes. As Beth Goodger, the city's director of waste management, notes, "by being there at the property to show people that storage was no more complicated than their regular garbage, it was easier to address individual concerns about odours, pests and convenience."
  • START SMALL. City employees were able to gather important information regarding participation rates, volume of material and time per stop from the pilot projects from 2002 to 2004. In addition to being useful for determining RFP costs and requirements, the demonstration projects also prepared city council and residents for the full-scale program.
  • TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PRIVATE-SECTOR EXPERTISE. The design-build-operate approach taken by the municipality for construction of the composting facility ensured a state-of-the-art building that incorporated design improvements as construction progressed. It also meant that the company building the structure took an active role in maintaining it, thus contributing to the stability of the program.
  • EXPECT CONTINGENCIES. Even though planning began more than four years before the start date, contingency planning was necessary because the central composting facility was not finished and some of the co-collection vehicles were not yet available. It was important for the city to adapt to new situations as they arose.

Partners and Collaboration

  • Aim Environmental Group
  • Associated Engineering
  • Christiaens Controls B.V.
  • Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • Dillon Consulting
  • FCM's Green Municipal Fund
  • Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd.
  • Metric Electric Inc.
  • National Waste Services Inc.
  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment
  • Ontario Waste Management Association
  • SWMMP Steering Committee
  • Waste Reduction Task Force Citizen Committee
Page Updated: 21/12/2015