Talking Garbage

By  | July 19, 2009 | 0 Comments | Filed under: Posts by M. Boilard

With the Toronto garbage strike and the ongoing headlines that scream “Stop Dump Site 41”, the issues of our wasteful ways are yet again being shoved into our faces.

Today, modern society manages its waste through complex, integrated waste management systems that handle an ever-growing waste stream, generated by a public that has been obsessed with everything convenient and disposable for the past 50 years or so.These systems cost municipalities millions of taxpayers’ dollars to keep them going; the more technically advanced the greater the costs.No matter which method of disposal we choose, burning or burying, the costs of managing our waste are heavy burdens to not only our pocket books, but to our surrounding environment as well…taking its toll on the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land that feeds us.

As a member of the public who has been involved with waste management issues for some time, all I can say is that the future looks bleakest when we consider disposal a solution.Ontario alone produces about 12 million tonnes of garbage every year, with at least half of that total going into our landfills; landfills that will ALL reach capacity in about 20 years.Perhaps this worrisome time frame is the driving force behind Site #41, for despite all obvious signs that it is an environmentally, inappropriate location for a landfill, the need for capacity appears to have outweighed the importance of source water protection … a source of pristine quality no less.

The hopelessness of it all is currently showing up in the parks of Toronto, piled massively high and wide for all to see and smell; a symbol of our failure to grasp the true essence of the 3Rs. Dare I say that it could be worse for them?What Torontonians are seeing represents only 40% of what is generated.It is a well know fact that the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) sectors generates 60% of our total waste steam.Indeed it could be worse; the private sectors dealing with that 60% could be on strike as well!

We all know there are serious problems with the amount of waste we generate, and as a reaction, the average person has thrown all efforts into recycling.Unfortunately, we have missed the point due to legislated myopia.Prevention is the only cure for today’s waste management issues; and the only means of prevention in our case is curbing our consumption.The 3Rs tried to teach us this long ago.First and foremost, REDUCE (our consumption) and only after do we Reuse and Recycle.In my opinion, we have been tackling the wrong end of the beast, as we carry our overflowing blue boxes to the curb, content that we’ve done our part.We need to ask ourselves this question:

Are these containers so overflowing because we are expert recyclers or because we are avid consumers of the disposable product?

To succeed, efficient waste management requires strong government leadership that supports a solid recycling infrastructure; including management programs supported through strict, enforceable laws for the ICI sectors as well.As municipalities do not have authority over the private sectors, we are left to rely on the Province for those initiatives.Government leadership in this regard has been slow in coming; however, I must concede that they are starting.As the public, we must continue to pressure our governments to do the right thing and not simply turn to quick-fix solutions like Adams Mine and Site # 41.

Recycling would be doomed to perpetual catch-up if we do not change our lifestyles of excess and convenience.The solution that the modern world is looking to these days is not the simplistic 3Rs. The principles of the 3Rs have become antiquated as our waste management needs have grown beyond their realm of protection.As a result of our need, a new mantra has raised from the 3Rs … Zero Waste.

Zero Waste is a lifestyle; one that addresses the problem at the source, that being, why so much waste is being generated in the first place.It is change at the production level, through the designing of new products and packaging to make them all reusable and recyclable.It is about management, reduction and eventual elimination.

Although many scoff the realities of a no waste society, this concept is taking strong hold worldwide.The scoffers must look at Zero Waste realistically.Zero Waste is like perfection…realistically, it may not be entirely attainable, but it is a necessary goal to keep us striving for the best.Does our environment not deserve our best efforts; after all, we depend on it for our very lives.

MB

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m_boilard@sympatico.ca'

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