Committee approves gas-powered lawn tools phase out

The Environment Committee approved a motion by Councillor King to test electric version of leaf blowers and other yard tools with an objective to completely phase out gas-powered equipment.

The City’s Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management approved Councillor King’s motion to phase out City-operated gas-powered lawn and yard equipment and replace it with electric alternatives.

Councillor King noted in comments to the Committee that small off-road engines, which are used primarily in lawn and garden equipment, emit high levels of air pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen, reactive organic gases, and particulate matter. 

Nitrogen oxide and reactive organic gas from small off-road engines are typically higher than emissions from light-duty passenger cars.  Research has determined that one hour of operation of a commercial gas powered leaf blower can emit as much nitrogen oxide and reactive organic gas emissions as driving over 17,000 kilometres in a new passenger vehicle.  These emissions also contribute to the formation of particulate matter, which, along with directly emitted particulate matter, has direct negative health impacts. 

It therefore make sense for the City to adopt zero-emission equivalents to small off-road engine equipment utilized to maintain green space. This initiative would reduce the air and noise pollution generated by two-stroke gas-powered lawn and yard equipment currently in use, such as leaf-blowers. The phase-out would begin with a pilot this summer.

Councillor King said during deliberations that if we are very serious in achieving our climate and emission targets, the City needs to expeditiously start using this technology.  He is grateful for residents’ advocacy which continues to encourage closing the gaps in policy after the declaration of a climate emergency in the City of Ottawa in 2019. 

City staff have committed to report back with a detailed plan to reduce emissions and environmental impacts of its operations equipment later in the year.  These efforts mirror the efforts of the National Capital Commission, which committed to ban gas-powered lawn and yard equipment starting in 2023.

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