Green City

Sorting through the Garbage

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 22, 2005

The hue and cry has begun over proposed new rules for garbage collection in Hamilton.

Fair-weather libertarian opponents are gnashing their teeth and rending their vestments over the restrictions on their right to throw everything into one bag (or, in the case of Hamilton, six bags).

Supporters are telling opponents to stop being so selfish and just get with the program.

Right now, the proposed legislation lumps two separate issues together in one container: diverting more waste away from landfills and reducing the public nuisance that surrounds garbage. This makes it more difficult to dispose of either properly.

People are reasonably incensed about the heavy-handed regulations on when to bring garbage out and collect empty bins, not to mention adding insult to inuury by slapping fines on people who already have to pick raccoon-strewn garbage off the front lawn.

Unfortunately, this anger threatens to undermine the more critical issue: reducing waste by recycling and composting applicable materials.

Just as the new legislation requires people to separate recyclables from garbage, City Council should separate the ecological goal from the more nannyish 'garbage etiquette' goal. Drop the micromanagement and push harder on reducing garbage, and opponents will have a lot less to complain about.

The goal of one black bag per family is not hard to attain. My four-person family produces, on average, one grocery bag of garbage a week. We accomplish this goal not through herculean efforts but simply by purchasing less heavily packaged goods, recycling everything that can be recycled, and composting everything that can be composted.

Even our two-year-old knows the difference between the garbage bag and the recycling bag. It's not rocket science.

Let's not let the noble, simple goal of garbage reduction be contaminated by dumping a lot of arbitrary, nitpicking regulations around it.

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 Blue Box Blues (anonymous) | Posted July 27, 2006 at 20:37:39

Hamilton's Blue Box pick-up policies are getting a bit too militant.

I have been a keen participant in Hamilton's recycling efforts since inception but I notice with greater and greater frequency that my blue boxes are left at the curbside because of some silly rule like some paper mixed in with containers or some inadvertently broken piece of glass.

The very least the city could do in such cases is to take away the blue box contents and leave an informational notice for next week. It helps neither party to leave garbage at the doorstep.

Recycling isn't a perfect process but it's success depends more on one single factor that on anything else: PARTICIPATION.

Every we alienate a Hamilton taxpayer with uncollected trash, we risk loosing a recycling advocate.

Hamilton's landfill quantities have doubled in the last 5 years. Could it be that I'm not the only person in town who's no longer interested in supporting this city's militant recycling regime?

Gotta go now ... It's gonna take some time and effort and fuel to drive somewhere to dump the stuff that didn't get picked up.

Yours Sincerely,
Annoyed former recycling participant.

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