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Wednesday, 23 January 2013 11:43

Time for all of us to clean up messy lifestyles, thinking

Written by  Matthew Liebenberg
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During 2012 the substantial environmental changes introduced through Bills C-38 and C-45 have become a key focus of the criticism directed against the Harper government’s two budget omnibus bills.


Concerns over the protection of Canada’s water resources as a result of changes to waterways legislation in Bill C-45 have also been one of the reasons that motivated the start of the Idle No More movement.
But how green are we as Canadians when it comes to our own lifestyles? After all, we cannot only rely on government and laws to protect the environment. The change must start with us.
The Conference Board of Canada released its latest report card on the country’s environmental performance on Jan. 17. It indicated we are actually a wasteful bunch when it comes to our own consumer lifestyle.
The study compared Canada with 16 other countries in the developed world. Canada ranked in last place for the amount of municipal waste that we generate and earned a “D” grade for that honour. Yes, even our American neighbours are not as messy as we are.
In 2008 (the most recent year with available data), Canada produced 777 kilograms per capita of municipal waste compared to the best-performing country Japan’s 377 kilograms.
The average amount of municipal waste produced by the 17 countries in the ranking is 578 kilograms per capita. This figure has been increasing slowly but steadily since 1995, when this 17-country average for municipal waste was 536 kilograms.
It is just a case that Canadians have been generating municipal waste at a faster pace than many other countries. During the 1990’s, Canada still received a “C” grade for municipal waste, but by 2002, our per capita municipal waste became worse than that of the United States and we have been stuck with the same “D” grade as our southern neighbour ever since.
Not all the countries in the rankings have seen an increase in their waste generation since the 1990s. Japan’s municipal waste generation has remained more or less steady at around 400 kilograms per capita and Norway reduced its volumes.
Canadian households generated nearly 13 million tonnes of waste in 2008, of which more than 8.5 million tonnes were disposed in landfills or incinerators. The other 4.4 million tonnes — most of it paper fibres and organic materials — were diverted through recycling, reuse or composting.
Municipal landfills are still the most common way to dispose of household waste and the management of such a site is an expensive undertaking.
According to Statistics Canada’s most recent waste management industry survey, the total current expenditures by local governments increased from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $2.6 billion in 2008.
The largest portion of the 2008 expenditure 1.1 billion) was on collection and transportation, followed by operation of disposal facilities ($465 million) and tipping fees ($368 million).
It is no different for the City of Swift Current. The current landfill site on the city’s east side has reached the end of its operational life. A new municipal solid waste cell is located about 10 kilometres northwest of Swift Current and the City has already started the process to transition operations from the old to the new site.
Councillors approved a bylaw in June 2012 for a long-term debt of $2,542,000 to fund the design and construction of the new municipal solid waste cell. This debt will be funded by user fees, but City administration indicated at the time there might be a future rate change on utility bills to cover the cost of residential waste collection tipping fees.
The City wants to extend the lifespan of the new solid waste cell by diverting recyclable materials, but recycling also comes at a price. The operational cost of the City’s recycling program was around $230,000 in 2011 and the $1 per month utility fee paid by residents only covered about $115,000 of that cost. As a result, council approved a new $4 per month recycling fee on utility bills that came into effect in March 2012.
A challenge facing the City’s program is to find facilities that are able to take the collected cardboard, paper and other material from its recycling depot. For many years, paper and cardboard from the depot has been processed at the Urban Forest Recyclers facility on Swift Current’s east side.
However, this facility will close in March 2013 after the recent acquisition of the 130,000-square-foot building by Ag Growth International, which will use it as an expanded manufacturing space for its existing Swift Current-based affiliate company Batco Manufacturing.
In response to questions from the media after the Jan. 7 council meeting, Director of Engineering Mac Forster indicated the City was already looking for other options to divert recyclable materials currently going to Urban Forest Recyclers. He also indicated the City will review its recycling program over the next year to ensure it fulfills the needs of the community and to divert material away from the new landfill.
Many Swift Current residents are already active recyclers. There were around 32,000 visits to the recycling depot in 2011. While recycling is a good way to start, there is an even better way to help out the City and our environment — simply consume less.
Matthew Liebenberg is a reporter with the Prairie Post. Contact him with your comments about this opinion piece at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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