By Chad Ingram
Published July 20, 2017
The issues of landfills and waste diversion have taken up a lot of space in this publication lately.
In June, we reported on how residents were being told to place items that were once put in recycling containers at Minden Hills landfills – items such as plastic planters, storage containers, flower trays and packing Styrofoam – into the chipping pile at the Scotch Line landfill.
It turned out, contrary to what many residents believed, these items were never being recycled, but rather chipped and used for cover at the landfill, or put into the landfill as is.
It turned out such items are not recycled by other municipalities within Haliburton County, either. While recycling streams are available for most plastic products at this point in time, the municipalities say it is not feasible for small, rural townships to transport such materials to specialized recycling facilities located, mostly, in and around Toronto.
In late June, Minden Hills township was issued a provincial officer’s order from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, indicating, among other things, there was a volume of leachate pooling on the landfill property as well as running off the landfill property.
Leachate is water that has percolated through waste. Garbage juice, for lack of a better term.
At the instruction of the ministry, the township will now embark on a remediation process to deal with the leachate at the Scotch Line landfill. Part of that process will be getting the site’s sizable construction and demolition pile under control through better sorting, clearly marked perimeters and more frequent chipping. Less uncovered waste sitting in the pile should, in theory, result in less leachate on the property.
Minden Hills Reeve Brent Devolin said at a special council meeting earlier this week that it’s time for the municipality to do a better job, and that is very evident.
The leachate issue at the Scotch Line landfill aside, it’s time for municipalities in the county to reexamine their waste diversion practices. It’s true they must balance environmental responsibility with economic sustainability, but they might try asking residents what kind of waste diversion practices they would like to see and, importantly, how much they are willing to pay to see those practices put into action.
Obviously, residents have a role to play too, through the consumer choices we make and how good a job we do at sorting our waste materials. The companies that create these products should also be held to account, and the province’s Waste-Free Ontario Act will ultimately phase in legislation that will make manufacturers 100 per cent responsible for the end-of-life care of their products.
In the meantime, however, it is up to municipalities to continue to evolve their waste diversion practices, ultimately prolonging the lives of their landfills.