Who will pick up your garbage?
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