Monday, November 26, 2007

The one bag limit

Some localities in Ontario, like Stratford and Wellington Centre (the mostly rural areas around Guelph), treat garbage the same way as electricity or water -- a public utility. You pay depending on how much you use. This is entirely fair. A single person living alone shouldn't have to subsidize a family that goes through a couple hundred diapers a week.

Hamilton currently has a three bag limit -- it used to be six, until composting and recycling became mandatory last year. But the megacity is still nowhere near the 65% diversion target. So city staff is proposing, reasonably I believe, to bring it down to just one bag a week. And city councillors are hearing it from ratepayers, thinking Hamilton shouldn't join other cities' sensible programs because "we're special."


We're not. Just drive around town and one can count the number of dumps -- sorry, PCers, landfills -- on both hands. Among the most notorious are Upper Ottawa, Rennie (which had to be partially excavated to make way for the Red Hill Parkway and which has methane pipes coming out on both sides of the highway), and 86 Acre Park (at 10th East and Green Mountain) which was supposed to be a nature preserve but turned out to be a toxic waste dump all along.

Stratford has the right approach. When they started charging for tags -- $1.75 per bag -- ten years ago, the impact was immediate. Everyone in town, from the acting company on down to the street buskers, found ways to reduce and reuse and recycle. It's not that hard. And after a while, it became second nature -- like buckling up our seat belts when we go out for a drive.

I say Hamilton should do the same, and force both residences and apartment buildings to play by the same rules. There's no reason why the diversion rate should approach 100%. The longer we can keep the Glanbrook site open, the better for all of us in Hamilton.

As for that other alternative, incineration ... anyone remember SWARU? Sure, the Europeans have figured out a way to make it cleaner and produce electricity from it, but I actually like going to Confederation Park without having to smell burning garbage anymore.

UPDATE (8:37 PM, 0137 Tuesday GMT): s.b. pointed out Guelph doesn't have a pay per bag system but the surrounding areas do. Duly noted -- and I've updated this entry to reflect that.

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S.K. said...

Guelph does not charge per bag of garbage and never has. I believe that some rural areas around Guelph in Wellington County, perhaps Puslinch, charge per bag. Not Guelph. Guelph has a wet, dry recyclables and waste stream system that is a Royal pain in the ass that doesn't even work very well and the plant has had to be redone very early, shut down by MOE and redone again to meet health standards. It has cost millions more than it was supposed to to stream Guelph's garbage and it isn't working particularly well.

In my humble opinion energy from waste projects are a much better idea.

S.K. said...

I will add Guelph will never have a pay per bag system as its hard enough to get university students to put out their garbage when its free. Pay per bag garbage is not a good idea. It just leads to illegal dumping and garbage storage which becomes a public health hazard. Universal garbage pickup was one of the major leaps forward in public health and we should not go back.

BlastFurnace said...

Thanks for the input, s.b ... I think I know who you are but I'm not 100% sure. If you are, I do remember your discussing your annoyance at separating the streams. I was just going by what the local paper here in Hamilton was saying when they were talking about other communities. Why they would confuse Guelph with Wellington Centre is beyond me.

If I'm not mistaken, Stratford and other pay per use communities also have toughened up by-law enforcement to address the anti-dumping problem you addressed. Not perfect, but I understand the compliance rate is very high; well over 98%.

As for the university crowd -- they can be a problem. We sure got a lot of flack from people in Westdale when I went to McMaster; and I was at off campus living at home. It was a bit unfair to an extent, considering it was the student body that had to convince the university more than a decade ago to start recycling and install lower energy bulbs around campus, which it absolutely refused to do until they broke down the costs. For something like reducing what can't be recycled, I think it's going to take initiative from students also.

Personally, I doubt Hamilton will go pay per bag too. Given the high rental rates in the city it's just not practical. I just feel it's weird that it's never been seriously discussed.