A recent Statistics Canada report shows that Manitoba’s waste reduction efforts stalled between 2006 and 2008. Manitoba’s diversion rate is still 7th out of 8 provinces which provided data. Only 15 per cent of the materials we throw out end up being recycled or composted, up from 14.5 per cent two years earlier. The rest goes to the landfill.
Across Canada, many communities have reached 50 per cent diversion rates by focusing on composting, banning recyclable materials from landfills, and by encouraging commercial operations to recycle by increasing tipping fees. The Regional District of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island has reached a diversion rate of 57 per cent. Here in Manitoba, Brandon has made a start with an organic waste collection pilot program, but there is still nothing off the ground in Winnipeg. Meanwhile, competition among landfills meant $2 million less was collected in tipping fees in 2008 compared to 2006. This left Manitoba money for to fund recycling operations.
We often hear that cultural and geographic issues prevent Manitobans from being better recyclers. This explanation lets governments off the hook too easily. According to the report, waste diversion closely correlates with how much communities are willing to spend: “local governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan spend $46 or less per capita on waste management and the quantity of waste diverted in these provinces was at least 100 kilograms per person less than the national average of 254 kilograms per person.” What this shows is that investing in waste diversion can have rapid results. We simply need to overcome our blindness to how valuable the resources we bury in our landfills truly are.