Ask the Councillor Mar2017: Presto pass costs, clothing bins at retail malls, recycling plastic bags

Resident P.H. asks: Could you tell me more about who owns and operates Presto Pass.  Is it a private company or a government run one? I have also read that the technology re the Presto Pass is outdated and the most expensive around. Is this the case? Also, do you know what is costs the city to issue every Presto Pass?

Answer: There will be a report coming to City Council related to the Presto changes very shortly which will outline the financial impact of these changes on Burlington Transit, but here is some general information:

  • Presto is a division of Metrolinx.  Metrolinx is an agency of the Government of Ontario.
  • The city’s involvement in Presto is mandatory if we are to receive the Provincial Gas Tax – over $2M per year.
  • The province subsidized Presto for a number of years only charging Transit 2% of revenue.
  • The way this 2% works is if the fare costs $1.85 on Presto, Burlington Transit would get $1.81 and Presto would get 4 cents (2% commission).
  • The charge for the Presto card itself likely will not be affected (currently $6 onetime fee).
  • The revenue figure is set to increase to 9% over the next few years. This is a 450% increase over the current 2%. In the above example, it will be $1.68 to Burlington Transit and $0.17 to Presto.
  • 9% is high by industry standards for payment processing; however, it is difficult to do a straight comparison since Presto provides services that visa or mastercard may not.
  • It is anticipated that Presto will adopt new technology and features as the technology improves.

R.F. asks: Does the city have any bylaws regarding clothing bins placed on private commercial malls or parking lots?

Answer: The city currently does not have a by-law in place regarding the placement of clothing bins, but it is something that could be considered in the future for review and approval by city council.  This could be through our licensing by-law or a standalone by-law.

Our by-law enforcement staff respond to complaints regarding overflowing bins, but they receive very few complaints of illegally placed bins.

Of course the owner of the plazas also have the right to remove bins that are placed there without their permission.

For further information, please contact our By-law department directly at 905-335-7731.

Resident N.R. asks: We are wondering why Burlington considers plastic bags to be garbage whereas Hamilton recycles them?

Answer: In order to accept plastic bags, the processing facility situated in Burlington that receives all curbside Blue Box material, would be required to purchase and install at a significant price, a mechanical bag breaker and a vacuum system to effectively separate plastic bags and film from the other recyclable commodities.  Our current agreement with the Burlington facility ends in April 2018.

The few municipalities that accept plastic bags in the Blue Box program do encounter processing challenges at their facilities due to the nature of plastic bags and film.  Due to their lightweight, plastic becomes caught in equipment requiring routine downtime for maintenance.  Recyclable material such as metal and glass also become contaminated with plastic devaluing their commodity price when sold to be recycled.  Plastic bags and film are also a different category of plastic which means they cannot be processed together with plastic bottles, or plastic containers, but must be separated before plastic bottles and containers are bundled and shipped to markets. For this reason, a number of municipalities are no longer accepting plastic bags and film or allowing households to place recyclable material in plastic bags prior to collection.  We strongly encourage residents to use where and when possible reusable bags.

When Halton develops our next Solid Waste Management Strategy (tentatively planned for 2017), we will closely watch any enhancements in processing technology with regards to handling plastic bags and film, and may request a price for plastic bags and film to be accepted in our next agreement to process Blue Box material.  We are also working with other municipalities to encourage the Province to implement extended producer responsibility initiatives to support municipal programs and to effectively streamline acceptable Blue Box material across the Province.  We anticipate the Province will implement enhanced and extended waste diversion legislation in the coming year or two.

Some local grocery stores do take back plastic bags.  Please find attached a link to the Region website which provides information on Halton’s Take It Back Program which also includes a link to the Canadian Plastic Industry Association on-line tool which provides information on local stores that accept plastic bags to be recycled.



Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. Hi Marianne, curiosity questions regarding school closures.

    As we taxpayers paid for the schools can we not have a referendum on their closures that overrides 1 person’s opinion in the school Board somewhere in Halton / or politician in Queens Park?

    But if they are closed and sold, do we (Burlington) get the money for other Burlington initiatives?

    • Allen, It’s a great question, and has come up before around disposal of school lands (most recently General Brock and John Boich). Even though taxpayers paid, the funding formula requires sale of school board land at market value. If we want it, we’d pay again. Something else to be fixed.

What's your take?

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