Who will pick up your garbage?

The Compass - - OPINION -

The is­sue of waste dis­posal has been a hot-but­ton is­sue in this prov­ince for much of the last decade, be­gin­ning when the govern­ment un­der then Lib­eral pre­mier Roger Grimes and En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Kevin Ayl­ward re­leased a new waste man­age­ment strat­egy in April 2002.

Re­mem­ber the days when we had some 240 land­fill sites, serv­ing an es­ti­mated 660 com­mu­ni­ties? Re­mem­ber the ma­jes­tic site of a teepee-style steel in­cin­er­a­tor, emit­ting round-the-clock tox­ins into the air as waste was burned in its belly? Yes, we had 50 of them at one point.

The rest of Canada was surely look­ing at us with wide eyes and wag­ging fin­gers, and right­fully so. It was shame­ful what we were do­ing to our en­vi­ron­ment.

Well, we’ve come a long way from those days, know­ing full well that those prac­tices could not con­tinue in our mod­ern age of en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness and stew­ard­ship.

But it hasn’t come with­out con­tro­versy as res­i­dents ad­justed to new ways of do­ing things. For ex­am­ple, it’s cost­ing us more for the priv­i­lege of be­ing able to bring our waste to the curb; some would say too much. Many of us are also truck­ing our waste sev­eral hun­dred kilo­me­tres to the near­est dis­posal site in places like St. John’s or Nor­ris Arm. Imag­ine that!

And those empty soda cans and other bev­er­age con­tain­ers are now worth some­thing, which is help­ing di­vert many tonnes of waste from en­ter­ing the waste dis­posal site. At the same time, school and com­mu­nity groups are rais­ing much-needed rev­enue through re­cy­cling drives, help­ing fi­nance ev­ery­thing from break­fast pro­grams and play­ground con­struc­tion to field trips and school sup­plies.

Those tasked with im­ple­ment­ing this strat­egy say it’s all be­ing done “in a man­ner which suc­cess­fully bal­ances com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­men­tal health with eco­nomic ca­pa­bil­ity.”

Many will agree this goal is be­ing achieved. But as groups like Eastern Waste Man­age­ment (EWM) progress with its man­date of en­sur­ing ev­ery­one in the area from Clarenville to St. John’s are pro­vided with waste and re­cy­cling col­lec­tion ser­vices, feath­ers are once again be­ing ruf­fled. The back­lash at the mo­ment is com­ing from those who own cab­ins and cot­tages in un­in­cor­po­rated ar­eas such as Spread Ea­gle.

EWM re­cently started reg­u­lar col­lec­tion ser­vices in th­ese ar­eas, and prop­erty own­ers are be­ing charged $180 an­nu­ally, re­gard­less of whether they spend two week­ends of ev­ery month at their cab­ins, or live there year-round. Op­po­nents say they gen­er­ate very lit­tle garbage, and bring it home with them ev­ery week­end, and don’t want to be charged twice for garbage col­lec­tion. EWM of­fi­cials say it’s a ser­vice it has been man­dated to pro­vide, and it is work­ing hard to en­sure it is fair, ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient.

Up next? Peo­ple who live in res­i­den­tial ar­eas out­side of in­cor­po­rated towns or Lo­cal Ser­vice Dis­tricts. EWM is pre­par­ing a model which will also see col­lec­tion ser­vices im­ple­mented in th­ese ar­eas, such as clus­ters of homes like those found in Gad­den’s Mash, just out­side the bound­ary of Car­bon­ear.

EWM say in­cor­po­rated mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have long com­plained that prop­erty own­ers in th­ese out­ly­ing ar­eas bring their garbage to fam­ily and friends in neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties for dis­posal, and are not pay­ing their fair share.

It’s a process that is sure to gen­er­ate plenty more de­bate and con­tro­versy in the com­ing months, and that’s healthy. When it comes to pro­tect­ing our en­vi­ron­ment, si­lence and in­ac­tion is the last thing we need.

— Terry Roberts

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