Waste management continues to be a major challenge across the globe, with improper waste disposal resulting in high levels of pollution. In order to tackle this global issue, it is important that communities, and in fact all residents, rethink their waste management strategies. In the Niagara Region, an October 2019 waste management services report analyzed the contents of the average Niagara resident’s weekly garbage disposal and found that compost and recycle programs were being underutilized by residents. Only 48 per cent of households were found to be using the Green Bin (compost) program and, on average, 64 per cent of what Niagara residents placed in the garbage could have been recycled or composted. That means that only 36 per cent of the typical curbside garbage in the region was actually landfill garbage: 50 per cent was found to be compostable organic material (such as food leftovers) and 14 per cent was recyclable material.
In response, the Niagara Region has made improvements to its waste management collection with the goal of increasing resident use of green bins for organics composting and encouraging the proper recycling of plastic, glass and cardboard products. As of October 19, 2020, the collection schedule changed to bi-weekly garbage pick-up, with continued weekly pick-up of recycling (blue & grey bins) and organic compost waste (green bin). Residents are now able to put out two containers of garbage on their scheduled pick-up week, and purchase additional tags if needed. This means that residents can still put out the same amount of garbage, they just have to wait two weeks to do so. The region hopes this will encourage individuals to use their green bins properly and help work toward it’s goal of diverting 65 per cent of waste from landfills. This can only be achieved, however, if we all put in an effort to rethink how we deal with our waste management.
This change in the collection schedule has many benefits for the region, the first extending the lifespan of the landfill site. It also helps fight climate change Reducing the amount of waste going to landfills also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases (methane) that are released into the atmosphere. Less waste in the landfills also helps prevent the leaching of harmful chemicals, from plastics and other chemicals, into the environment. Proper recycling can also help in the reduction of greenhouse house gases through a reduction in energy consumption. Using recycled materials to make new products reduces the need for new materials. In turn, this avoids the greenhouse gas emissions that would have result from creating those new materials. This relates back to the idea of a circular economy, where we use products, services and resources for as long as possible and then recover and regenerate them at the end of their service life.
Reducing the frequency in garbage pick-up also results in a reduction of the number of garbage trucks on the road. This, in turn, also mean a reduction in harmful emissions contributing to climate change. As well as the environmental benefits, having fewer wate collection trucks on the road also benefits the community by reducing traffic and lowering the financial costs for expenses like fuel and vehicle maintenance. Garbage trucks and other heavy vehicles can also cause significant damage to roads over time (such as the creation of potholes), and having less trucks on the road could potentially lower road maintenance costs in the region, too.
If you are concerned about this new schedule and and its impact on your household waste disposal, there are many ways that you can reduce the volume of your waste and work towards proper waste disposal. Rethinking how you shop is a great place to start; you can look for products that contain less waste or buy in bulk. Shifting your mindset to think more about your waste habits and educating yourself on transforming your current habits into more sustainable ones will also help to ease the transition. Stay tuned for future blog posts where we will be discussing more on proper waste management and how we can work on improving our waste habits. It is important to note that there will also be province-wide changes to the recycling system coming in a few years and that the MEOPAR team will also discuss those changes and their implications in future blog posts.