Opinion: Lessening landfill loads

By Jenn Watt

Municipalities in Haliburton County have been looking at ways to make composting more appealing to residents as we all become more aware of the limited space in our landfills and the escalating cost of hauling waste away.

Every couple of weeks there’s a new national headline warning that we can no longer continue to ship our recyclables to country A and that our waste is being rejected from country B. Locally our municipalities have felt the effects. Not long ago Dysart et al grappled with changes in recycling that meant costs shot up for fibres and containers. And with the closure of the Haliburton landfill on the horizon it’s time for all of us to divert as much as possible lest we be charged for the additional burden on the system when it becomes a transfer station.

Plus reducing food waste is good for the bottom line in all of our lives.

We can better use the food we’re buying by being more intentional about what we purchase saving us money. We can choose to turn the food that is unused into nutrient-rich soil for our gardens improving the quality and quantity of our yield. And we can reduce the cost to the municipality – and on our tax bills – by sending less to the dump.

At Dysart council’s most recent environment and climate change committee meeting Mallory Bishop the environmental co-ordinator told councillors that increasingly residents are calling her up asking about composting.

She asked whether councillors would join in with neighbouring municipalities in bulk purchasing composters and/or digesters to be sold at-cost to residents.

Support was unanimous but did come with reservations. First that educational materials and perhaps demonstration sessions be done to assure people that composting can indeed happen in Haliburton. Second there was a conversation that something different will need to happen on the commercial side as restaurants and grocery stores have larger volumes to deal with.

And this is where politics and on-the-ground ingenuity could come together nicely. Currently highly restrictive provincial regulations are blocking local small-scale solutions to issues like composting in Haliburton. Bishop said if Dysart wanted to set up a composting area for residents it would need to be an industrial facility that would be unreasonably expensive for our tax base.

At the same time there are local groups like Abbey Gardens that could with the right assistance be well positioned to handle at least some of the community’s food waste. The provincial government is in the midst of examining input from a discussion paper on reducing waste in Ontario communities. Could tweaks to legislation allow for community partnerships in organic waste diversion? It’s certainly a possibility.

In the meantime there’s plenty that can be done on a household level. A common refrain in the Highlands is that composting isn’t possible in a place with so much wildlife. And yet there are many who manage to do it quite well. The knowledge is there and municipalities are gearing up to provide assistance.

If the pieces fall into place Haliburton County could make substantial changes in what’s discarded – kitchen waste and tax dollars alike.