Editorial: Trash solutions from afar

South Dundas continues to grapple with the ongoing landfill issue looking for a long-term solution. Already, one landfill site has been closed, while the second has only a few years left at best. While council and administration are studying the issue and await the final report from the consultant, there are some potential options that we could explore from our neighbours, that might put South Dundas on a positive path forward to solving our trashy problems.

On July 1, 2019, Prince Edward Island became the first province in Canada to ban plastic shopping bags. Shoppers now have to pay a mandatory fee for a paper bag, or bring their own reusable bags to the store. The goal of the program is to reduce the amount of plastics entering the waterways on and around the island, and to increase waste diversion.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, an advocacy group for retailers across the country, not one municipality in Ontario has implemented a plastic shopping bag ban. Some municipalities are considering it, but none have done so yet. In fact, only 46 municipalities across Canada have banned plastic bags: the overwhelming majority of those are in Quebec. Given the number of retail businesses in South Dundas, adopting a plastic bag ban would not be an insurmountable task. Such an action could make South Dundas a leader for positive change.

Here in South Dundas, municipal administration has stated that we have a waste diversion rate of about 21 per cent, a rate far below the provincial average of 49.7 per cent. In PEI by contrast, the diversion rate is almost 70 per cent.

Over 15 years ago PEI implemented several pro-active changes including expanding recycling programs to include most types of plastic, metal, and paper, along with no-charge disposal of appliances including refrigerators. The biggest adaptation was the pickup of compost, which is collected, processed centrally, and then sold to farms throughout Atlantic Canada. PEI is only 11 times the population size of South Dundas, and 15 times the land size.

Adopting a plastic bag ban, and an aggressive waste diversion strategy, including curb side compost pick up, might mean a financial outlay in South Dundas now. However that investment would pay off in dividends making the municipality a leader in waste diversion. It could lower long term costs for landfill expansion, and most importantly, benefit the local environment. A win-win-win solution for all.

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