Illustration by Elling Lien
Hopeful recyclers all across St. John’s breathed a defeated, unsurprised sigh on March 25th, when the city once again postponed the city-wide curbside recycling program. The pilot project has been running successfully in Cowan Heights and parts of downtown since May 2007, and a city-wide program was originally slated to begin in the fall of 2009, but in November 2008 the program got cut during the budgetary process, and was delayed. The new start date was set for May 17th, 2010. After issuing a request for proposals to find a contractor to operate the new recycling facility out in Robin Hood Bay, the city only received a single bid. This bid was apparently unacceptably high, and the city will be “going back to the market place for [a] recycling facility operator” as they state in their press release.
Dennis O’Keefe assures us that the city “remain[s] firmly committed to introducing a residential curbside recycling program this fall.” But I would not recommend holding your breath for this. But maybe third time’s the charm, as they say?
I would prefer to think of this most recent delay as an opportunity. Usually initiatives are stalled before they get off the ground because of a lack of funding. The real beauty of delaying the curbside recycling program for at least five months is that we now have five months of funding available in the budget that hadn’t been there before. By my quick reckoning, this means that there should be over $850,000 available.
So! Why not take this money and distribute it to organizations which will start their own waste diversion programs? Communities could gather their own bottles and return them for deposit, collect tin cans and plastics to be stored until the program gets off the ground, or start a community compost and garden… The possibilities of where this money could go, and what could be done with it, are as endless as our collective imaginations.
The current waste diversion plan involves collecting recyclables, and shipping them to the mainland for sale and processing. This approach is a great way to put up numbers of tonnes of waste diverted from the landfill, but the carbon footprint from shipping recyclables off the island will not look so great.
Surely we could find more imaginative and innovative ways to deal with our waste, and what better opportunity than a spare 850,000 bucks?
What do you think the city should do with the money saved? Without pressure from the public, this money will surely be swallowed up into the rest of the budget, and then we will have squandered the greatest opportunity for city council to encourage recycling ever. Or at least since the last two times they delayed the program.