Markham: 70% Trash Diversion and Growing

By Ryan McGreal
Published November 26, 2007

Once again, Hamilton's do-little City Council seems poised to back away from leadership in addressing the city's problems.

This, Wednesday, Council will vote on a staff proposal to limit garbage collection to one bag per family in an attempt to approach the city's goal of diverting 65 percent of its municipal waste out of landfills by 2010.

Nine councillors out of fifteen have indicated that they will vote against the proposal. Some, like Lloyd Ferguson, seem opposed on principle. Others, like Sam Merulla, feel the decision is too rushed and should be delayed for a year so residents have a chance to get used to the idea.

Still others, like Tom jackson, oppose the use of an "enforcement stick," citing improvements under the current voluntary system. However, as Russ Powers notes, diversion has stagnated at 40 percent for the past two years.

Here's a crazy idea: let's look at cities that have been successful at diverting more waste than Hamilton.

The city of Markham has already reached its target of 70 percent diversion by the end of 2007, and is looking at ways to bring the rate even higher.

One of Markham's most effective methods of increasing participation has simply been to collect recycling and green bins every week but only collect garbage every other week.

Don't want your garbage to pile up? Don't throw recyclables into it. Don't want your garbage to stink? Don't throw compostables into it.

It's simple, it will probably save the city money, and it's currently working in a city of 260,000 that has already surpassed a diversion goal Hamilton has little chance of meeting if it does nothing.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 26, 2007 at 14:42:07

I think it'd be a great idea... Something needs to be done, quickly. If we make targets we should be attempting to reach them, not letting people get used to the idea. Of course, if it was something like dropping the speed limit to 30 on city streets, then by all means, wait a while for people to get used to it, but if it's something as simple as penalizing those who are too lazy to use their recycle bin or green bin. Environmental conscienciousness needs to be one of the primary concerns for us.

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 26, 2007 at 15:33:47

I like the idea from the waste reduction task force - they suggest that whichever councillors vote against this proposal, their wards should be put at the top of the list for a new incinerator or landfill site. that's the problem with leaders with no vision. anyone can vote no or try to appease the squeaky wheel in their wards. well, how about telling your ward residents that they are now neighbourhoods with the next SWARU? Again, this is where term limits would help out so much. 2 terms should be the max for council and mayor. Otherwise, they take crucial votes like this and try to do what will help them keep their career-politician job instead of doing what's right and healthy for the citizens of the city. Do-little is right.

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By CitiJoe (anonymous) | Posted November 29, 2007 at 02:33:07

But Hamilton (City) is not the best at recycling. Other municipalities recycle more things in their blue, gray, & green bins than Hamilton does.

Until Hamilton makes better decisions & decides to bring more things into it's re-cycling programs, I don't think it should restrict it's limit to one bag.

Several things that come to mind are plastic plant pots from nurseries. These pots carry the symbol as re-cyclables, but Hamilton will not take them. -? Perhaps they should force local nurseries to pot all plants in peat or other organic containers? Is it my job to try & enforce this?

Another item is pet waste. Toronto will take pet waste in the green bin, Hamilton will not. How many 1000's of homes have pets or multiple pets in the GHA? We pay to license them, & we pick up after them. The parks don't want us to leave our bags of pet waste in the park garbage containers, & request that we take it 'home'. (Many parks do not empty garbage containers during the winter months, which makes no sense to me. Parks are used year round.)

In speaking with GHA several times, they simply refuse to acknowlege the existence of pet waste at all. It's just one of many things that are not covered in their Great Plan. I was advised to: A) 'Flush it down the toilet'
? Water health hazard? B) 'Bury it in the yard.' ? General health hazard?

Personal paper items such as diapers, & womens' personal items cannot be recycled. Used kleenex can. Why is that? People with young children are given a break on the number of garbage bags allowed, but adults using Depends etc. are not. (Adults also don't have the option of getting a diaper service.)

Cutting down waste is a good idea. I spend many hours a week sorting garbage & compost. I bag & compost my plant material too. I do not compost decidous leaves here because they have 'tar spot' a fungal disease which may not die in a composter. Are paper brown bags spreading tar spot to more trees? Can the paper waste bags spread pine beetles, coddling moths, fungus' & other pests?

If your neighbour choses to opt out of any & all recycling, he/she can do that. It isn't mandatory. Ask city hall about that. So if you chose to recycle, you can be fined for having more than 1 garbage bag in spite of your other efforts. If you chose not to do any recycling -No Problem. Just drag mass quantities off to the dump in a trailer or 2, pay the bill, & City Hall doesn't care.

Lastly, are the Big Polluters being held to the same standards as the home owner? Do large office complexes, high rises & condos, & major industrial polluters being held to these same standards? Who puts more waste into the GHA landfills? Who puts more hazardous waste into the land fills? How much do they pay to do that?

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