Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


Canadian society generates huge quantities of solid waste, for which disposal is becoming more difficult. Landfill space is becoming scarcer and municipal jurisdictions are having to allocate greater and greater financial resources to this problem. The ultimate solution to the waste problem lies in reducing waste generation. Iii this area, there is considerable disagreement on how to achieve this goal. One school of thought advocates economic instruments such as user fees to induce people and societies to become more sustainable. This thesis examines the user-pay concept as a waste management tool. This thesis consists of a detailed examination of the theoretical and practical aspects of user-pay, the impact of existing user-pay systems on residential waste generation, and a case study analysis of a political and decision-making process associated with the issue. The main focus is a case study analysis of Peterborough Ontario's experience with user-pay garbage collection. This community attempted to implement user-pay in 1991. The proposal was eventually put to a referendum and subsequently rejected by city residents. This case study reconstructs the events and process connected with the user-pay proposal, examines the issues which came out in the debate, and determines the reasons for the defeat of the proposal. Research for the case study involved interviewing the actors involved in the decision making and political process, analysis of city reports and documents, and an analysis of the print media. The results of this research confirm that user-pay is extremely controversial. The controversy stems from the fact that user pay is a political/philosophical issue as people perceive it as discriminatory and as an unfair tax. Overall, user-pay appears feasible from an operational and administrative point of view, but is restricted by political considerations. The greatest obstacle for user-pay appeals to be political resistance and political considerations will probably determine its future as a waste management tool in Ontario.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season