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The Meaford Independent

Council Challenged to Improve Waste Diversion Rates

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Meaford resident Jenean Lush would like to see the municipality build upon its recent success in waste diversion, and she brought some ideas before council at their September 10 meeting.

Speaking on behalf of newly formed citizen group “Meaford Area Community Association” (MACA) of which she is a founding member and current president, Lush said that Meaford has posted some impressive waste diversion numbers over the last two years, but she feels that the municipality can do even better.

“While in the midst of the garbage incineration issue that appeared last year, I began to do some research on the alternative, which is zero waste, and waste diversion,” Lush told council, “Since then the waste diversion numbers for 2011 have been released which ranked Meaford as the third best municipality in Ontario.”

As reported in The Independent in April, with a focus in recent years on decreasing the amount of trash sent to landfills through initiatives such as pay-as-you-throw bag tags, the bolstering of curbside compostable organics collection, as well as various public education programs, in 2011 Meaford was ranked third among 223 Ontario municipalities for waste diversion.

From 2010 to 2011 compostable organics collection in the municipality increased by 77 percent, and recyclable materials collection increased by 17 percent resulting in a decrease in garbage tonnage destined for landfills of some 23 percent allowing Meaford to achieve the provincially mandated 60 percent waste diversion – an achievement many Ontario municipalities have yet to realize.

Lush says that while Meaford has seen great success in the increases in waste diversion, now is the time to work toward an even higher goal – zero waste.

“Meaford's diversion rate in 2008 was a lowly 32.49 percent, by 2010 we had reached 57.58 percent, and last year that rate had increased to over 60 percent - a huge accomplishment in only four years,” Lush told council, “So then I thought if Meaford has come this far in the past four years, why can't we go even further?”

Lush cited examples of other communities that have been working to send less trash to landfills, including San Francisco who she says are the waste diversion leaders in North America with a diversion rate in excess of 78 percent. Lush says that San Francisco has found that success through a variety of initiatives that have engaged residents and business owners.

“There are multiple programs that San Francisco has implemented which have aided them in reaching that rate, many of them could be easily implemented in our municipality. One of the easiest things that would help to increase our diversion rate is to increase the number of items that can be recycled in our blue bins,” said Lush.

Many communities allow such items as Styrofoam, clear plastic film, plastic bags including bread bags and dry-cleaning bags, and Lush suggested to council that Meaford consider adding more acceptable waste materials to the blue bin collection program.

In addition to allowing residents to send more items to the recycling stream, Lush suggested that increased education for the public combined with incentive programs could help Meaford move toward becoming a zero waste community.

“Another program that has been implemented in other Ontario towns is the 'Golden Bin' program. Residents can be nominated by either the collectors or their neighbours to recognize their outstanding waste diversion efforts including recycling, composting and overall reduction of waste. Those that are recognized in the program receive a gold recycling bin for their use which allows them to be recognized in the community once per week on recycling day,” explained Lush.

Councillor Lynda Stephens, who is known for her dedication to waste reduction and other environmental initiatives, agreed that Meaford has done an outstanding job in recent years, but there is more that can be done to improve Meaford's waste diversion rate.

“I think that what staff are doing now is phenomenal, and we've come a long way,” said Stephens after Lush's presentation, “I am familiar with the 'Golden Bin' program as well, and maybe some day we'll be able to do that.”

Municipal staff in a report submitted to council in April has said that they remain determined to build upon their waste diversion success.

In that report, Director of Operations, Stephen Vokes outlined some of the methods that the municipality will follow in the future hopes of improving upon their waste diversion success including:

• Continued monitoring of capture rates of all waste collection programs

• Continued development of a strong P&E program, which will include: increased paper, cardboard and boxboard capture rates, work with local schools to promote waste diversion, attend local special events and outreach programs, and general public awareness.

• Mult-residential recycling and organic collection through specific plans suited to the facility. This program will be labour intensive and will be completed over the course of 2012.

• Efficient waste collection for seasonal residential areas through increased education on the proper use of roadside collection containers.

• Implementation and installation of new Public Space Recycling containers at various locations within the Municipality. These new containers were implemented in Spring 2012 and will allow for the proper sorting of recyclable materials at our parks.

• Continue to seek any available funding to further enhance or subsidize existing programs.

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