Reducing single use plastic in Dysart et al

By Jenn Watt

Published Feb. 19 2019

The following are brief reports of items discussed at the environment and climate change committee of Dysart et al council held Feb. 7.

Dysart is planning to change the way we look at bottled water and single use plastics starting in its facilities and with its staff.

“We have an entire class delving into research on reducing single use plastic particularly focused on water bottles” said Dysart’s environmental co-ordinator Mallory Bishop. The class is organized through U-Links Centre for Community Based Research through Trent University. They are researching alternatives to plastic and how best to convince people to make the switch.

“A lot of people have fears that have likely been instilled in them through big water bottle companies about it tastes better or the odour is different or it’s healthier they have all these preconceived notions. They’re giving us information on that” Bishop said.

Students will look at factors that influence consumption and investigate methods of engaging the public.

“What I wanted them to focus on was changing the culture around water bottles and public perception because I think that’s the best angle we have to influence that at this point in time. They’re really looking at ways that you could change public attitude around single use plastic” she said.

Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts said although meeting minutes from the joint environmental committee indicated the municipality would have a no single-use bottle policy for its facilities by 2019 it was more likely to be 2020.

However she said Dysart was being proactive setting up the infrastructure to make it easier to phase out water bottles by installing a water station at the arena and changing the expectations for those who rent park space.

Tamara Wilbee chief administrative officer said she had learned from talking to organizers from Bayfield Ont. about their anti-plastic initiative that the infrastructure has to come first.

Bishop agreed: “The way you have to do it is you have to provide the alternative and then implement.”

One idea was to sell reusable bottles at cost at municipal events.

Wilbee said water stations have been included in Dysart’s draft budget.

Councillor Walt McKechnie said he has a burning question he needs answered: could Dysart incinerate its garbage rather than landfilling it or trucking it away?

He reflected on the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference which included discussions on waste management but didn’t offer solutions.

“Why in the heck aren’t we incinerating our garbage? This is a problem. Nobody talks about it. [They say] ‘Oh we’re going to truck it away.’ You know what it’s going to cost us in 2020 what it’s going to cost us to truck it away?” he said referring to the year the Haliburton landfill will be closed transitioning to a transfer station. It’s expected the cost will greatly increase at that point which could lead to user fees.

He said he heard they incinerate garbage in Europe and it seems to be working.

Mallory Bishop told him it was an expensive proposition and wasn’t without its own environmental problems.

“In order to make money a certain amount of garbage has to be provided. So we wouldn’t provide even enough for them to even bother sending trucks to our area. So that’s one concern” she said.

“Another thing about waste-to-energy [a method of creating electricity or heat through combustion] is that there are a lot of environmental concerns … because while it’s promoted by companies as being clean it still releases quite a bit of toxins into the air when it’s done.”

She said for that reason waste reduction was more commonly promoted.

McKechnie said it wasn’t about cost for him it was about removing a longstanding problem.

“If it wasn’t working in Europe I wouldn’t even think about it but it is working. I don’t care what it costs. Who cares what it costs? We’ve got to get rid of the stuff” he said.

Councillor John Smith who chairs the committee said waste-to-energy would be added as an agenda item for a future committee meeting.