Every few years in this province, the debate on garbage gets recycled. An upcoming consultation on a new waste minimization strategy could offer an opportunity for positive change – But only if you stay involved.
Twenty five years ago, Recycling Council of Manitoba was founded to help encourage waste minimization across the province. There was no official recycling system here and as the garbage was piling up, Manitoba was falling behind the rest of the country. A few years later, the group was renamed Resource Conservation Manitoba as it took on a broader mandate. Today our organization is called Green Action Centre. Besides recycling, it now focuses on environmental issues of concern to Manitobans, including composting, building cycling and pedestrian friendly cities and reducing our environmental impact in all our collective and individual actions. Waste reduction retains a central place in our philosophy and program.
Recently, garbage is again in the headlines, and the City of Winnipeg is discussing the need for a waste minimization strategy. In 2005, when we published “Regaining the Lead” Manitoba had fallen to 6th place among provinces in terms of waste diversion. At the time we called on the province to adopt a recycling, diversion and reduction strategy to allow the province to return to its place as a pioneer in waste reduction. Since then, while other provinces have redoubled their efforts, Manitoba has fallen further behind. Most recent Statistics Canada data shows Manitoba in 9th place.
For better or worse, what the City of Winnipeg does on waste reduction has a predominant impact on the province as a whole. Winnipeg represents over 50% of Manitoba’s population and produces a proportionate share of its trash. In Winnipeg, less than 20% of waste gets recycled. Unlike other cities across Canada, there is no curbside collection of compost, so thousands of tonnes of organic waste is going into our landfills, making the Brady Road landfill among the provinces biggest greenhouse gas emitters. We need a plan to do better.
Earlier this year, we renewed our call for a comprehensive plan on waste reduction. Several sudden changes in policy, including the introduction of garbage carts in North West Winnipeg, a change in recycling contracts and the introduction of reduced tipping fees for bulk waste haulers made us feel that decisions were being made too much on an ad hoc basis.
On February 22, before the city council was to vote on a series of waste related measures, we held a news conference asking the City to hold off on approving new contracts until it had adopted a comprehensive plan. Our fear was that many of the long term contacts being negotiated by the City would lock us in for several years more of the status quo. Two days later, council voted 12-4 to approve a motion partly based on our intervention:
“That Council direct the Public Service to develop a city-wide waste reduction plan in consultation with the public. This plan should consider all options for reducing waste including curbside organics pickup as well as bi-weekly collection schedules for some materials and include an early and orderly implementation schedule.”
On all sides there is now a recognition that we need to move towards a system that includes curbside organics collection if we are to meet our waste reduction goals. Recently, City staff announced that they would be proposing a consultation plan that will be put forward to Council next month. The consultation will last one year to eighteen months. We will be asking your support in the coming months to help ensure that council retains momentum on this issue. With your support, Green Action Centre will continue to make a difference on reducing waste in Manitoba.