Put it in the books folks, Monday, May 17th, 2010 will be the start date for the curbside recycling program for St. John’s.
And only a dozen or so years behind the rest of Canada.
For the first phase there will be bi-weekly pickup of recyclable containers (plastic, aluminum, tin), and paper. In 2011, they’ll be carting away your compostables.
But when the start date for the new program was announced in a council meeting earlier this month, it was not all applause and cheers. Who could possibly be raining on this eco-parade?
Ward 5 councillor Wally Collins said that he’s not sure about the whole [recycling] thing. The cost of shipping our recyclables off the island will prove costly, he says, and he also questioned any potential environmental benefits gained by shipping recyclables away—some going as far as Boston.
Deputy-mayor Shannie Duff admitted the CO2-cutting benefits are debatable if the recyclables are shipped off the island, but “there is great benefit in making people aware of their waste,” she says.
Duff is right about this. The recycling program is arguably as much about preventing, and diverting waste from the landfills and getting people to think about garbage as it is about actual recycling.
So, now that we finally have this fantastic recycling program all of St. John’s will be recycling, right? Probably not. There is no provision in the waste diversion plan to enforce the new recycling program. This means that in theory, on May 17th, we could send out a whole slew of recycling trucks, and they could come back empty.
The issue came up at the January 26th meeting of the Public Works standing committee. Ward 1 councillor Danny Breen said no changes were proposed because the committee felt it would be too difficult to enforce any necessary by-laws.
“We can’t enforce the ones we have on the books now,” he says.
Breen is hopeful though that with the huge public education campaign that will be launched—to the tune of $750,000 no less—we should see a big uptake on the new program. He thinks we will see 50-60 per cent participation right off the bat, with more coming as a result of good communication from the city and from continued public education.
There is no denying that the city should be proud of its recent massive improvements to waste management in the last several years, but although these improvements are decades overdue, they are huge steps in the right direction.
As far as enforcement, I think we should do the whole thing like a band-aid, off in one go, and before you know it, the pain is gone.
That way we could have spent our $750,000 to let people know they are going to have to recycle May 17th, instead of telling people they can recycle May 17th. If they want. Maybe. Kinda.
Catch Andrew live-blogging city council meetings every Monday on Twitter @thescopeNL