October 02, 2005

Cleaning Up Ontario

Premier must take lead on GTA trash, critics say
Exporting Toronto's Trash

Just over one year ago, the issue of what to do with Toronto's garbage was an issue that came up because John Kerry, during his campaign to get the oval office, promised to ban trash imports from Canada. It brought up a lot questions as to what Toronto, and the rest of the GTA, might do with all their trash since the province was limiting Toronto's options. Now the issue has been brought up again as Michigan itself is threatening to close the border. On one hand, the Conservatives are looking at the ancient idea of incinerators, while the NDP are stuck with a not-so-distant past, small-thinking option of standard recycling programs.

What is needed is something more forward thinking. Incinerators are obviously not a good choice. With a province that already deals with smog and other pollution problems, incinerators would only exacerbate the issue. Even if the facility were placed in Northern Ontario, it would result in Northern Ontarians being punished for our lack of innovation. Neither outcome is desirable. Expanding recycling programs is a great idea, especially if were still in the early 1990's. The problem here is that is doesn't go far enough to convince - force - people to bother with the program. Besides, if we (supporters) like to admit it or not, the recycling program is quite costly and throwing more money at it may not be the answer. Just over one year ago, I argued that Ontario as a whole needs to take two cues to deal with the problem. One from Nova Scotia and the other from Alberta.

Ontario needs to take an approach to garbage much like Nova Scotia has. Nova Scotia uses an extensive recycling AND composting program. All of their trash, with the exception of a very few items, is either recycled or composted. And to help the public to be mindful of the program, households must put their garbage out in clear, plastic bags. This allows collectors to monitor what is being tossed and apply fines to houses that don't comply. Each household is given a list of what cannot go to the landfill. While Nova Scotians were a little upset at first, most now swear by the program and the province has cut back its landfill waste by over 50%. This is the type of thinking the NDP need to push for. They should not just look at expanding recycling facilities but should be thinking about changing the regulations about recycling and adding in composting into the mix as well.

In addition, Toronto, the GTA and the Ontario PC's should be pushing for co-composter facility, much like the one used in Edmonton. The plant mixes sewage, trash, river sludge and other ingredients to create compost. All the trash of the city is brought to the plant to be sorted. Items that cannot be broken down are taken away and recycled, if possible. What remains is added into the mix and 'cured' into compost that is then sold. The project is a public-private venture, co-owned by the City of Edmonton and TransAlta Utilities. For Edmonton and the surrounding area, the project has resulted in more than a 50% reduction in landfill waste. Why I think the Ontario Tories should be looking at this option over incinerators is because it has the added advantage of not creating air pollution, it will be a (probably small) revenue generator, it will create jobs and it involves the Tories' friends, the corporate sector. Yes, I'm willing to advocate for a public-private venture if it means bringing it to Toronto.

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)