Landfills a licence to print money
Land has always been a sound investment, because as they say, they’re not making it anymore. Landfills are also entering that category of rare and valuable commodities, because new “dumps,” as they were once called, are as rare as hen’s teeth.
In our “Not In My Backyard” world, anyone who got in on the ground floor, or the ground level, of waste management by now has a licence to print money.
As time goes by, and the world continues to produce trash, the value of waste disposal sites is bound to soar. Despite the push to recycle as much as is humanly possible, there will be no appreciable, long-term reduction in the non-recyclable wastes the world produces.
As the need for landfills increases, so will the resolve of people to ensure that new garbage handling facility stay away from their neighbourhoods and concessions. Adding to this determination to keep strangers’ trash out of their backyards is the spectre that big-city garbage will be disposed of in the countryside. “Municipalities across Ontario are quietly being identified and targeted as potential landfill sites,” warns a motion from Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman. The Conservative representative is circulating a resolution to municipal governments to support his demand for greater authority over garbage disposal.
“I believe municipalities should have a say in the location of something that would have such a lasting impact on their community,” he writes. “As you know, today municipal governments can decide where a Tim Hortons should go, but they can't decide where something as significant as a landfill should go. That doesn't make sense.” A reference to Tim Hortons is appropriate here considering that its containers are the most common form of litter.
Anyway, only the Ministry of the Environment approves a new landfill, but Bill 16, Respecting Municipal Authority Over Landfilling Sites, would ensure that waste companies are required to have approval from the municipality as well before they can move forward with the landfill placement. The idea has some momentum. About 30 and another 150 municipal leaders have signed petitions to demand this right. The resolution by Mr. Hardeman complains that the current law is out-dated and “allows private landfill operators to consult with local residents and municipal councils, but essentially ignore them.”
Municipalities already have exclusive rights for approving casinos and nuclear waste facilities within their communities, the province has rec- ognized the value of municipal approval for the siting of power generation facilities, he points out.
“The recent report from Ontario's Environmental Commissioner has found that Ontario has a garbage problem, particularly from Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) waste generated within the City of Toronto, where diversion rates are as low as 15 per cent,” the MPP observes. Thus, the implication is that because of Torontonians, there will be more pressure to secure more waste dumping grounds, and we know that there is no space on Bay Street for a landfill.
Mr. Hardeman argues that “municipalities should be considered experts in waste management, as they are responsible for this within their own communities, and often have decades' worth of in-house expertise in managing waste, recycling, and diversion programs” and that local governments “should have the right to approve or reject these projects, and assess whether the potential economic benefits are of sufficient value to offset any negative impacts and environmental concerns.”
There are some economic benefits to having a landfill site in a community. For example, North Stormont Township recently received $551,000 from Green for Life (GFL) Environmental Inc. as part of a longstanding host agreement between the municipality and the Moose Creek waste facility operator.
GFL owns over 2,400 acres in the northeast part of the municipality at the intersection of Highways 417 and 138, where it operates the facility formerly known as Laflèche Environmental.
Employing 55 people, the Moose Creek site serves about 500 Eastern Ontario communities.
The firm is currently in the process of expanding the facility. If the proposal is approved by the Ontario government, GFL Environmental Inc. will add 4.2 million cubic metres of capacity and extend the life of the landfill by about five to ten years.
It’s safe to say that most people in Eastern Ontario are hoping that the existing facility keeps growing because its expansion would eliminate the necessity to seek out new sites.
Under the current law, municipalities are powerless when it comes to the location of new dumps.
Besides, landfill siting debates are never pretty. In fact, anti-dump campaigns make anti-wind turbine drives look tame.
-- Richard Mahoney, [email protected]garrynews.ca