Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Québec residual materials management strategy includes a progressive reduction and eventually a “ban” of organic material from municipal landfills by 2020. Municipalities who comply with the policy are eligible for funding to help offset the costs. The Municipality of Pontiac has responded by passing a resolution to initiate door to door collection with costs paid for by the residents.
We spoke with Philippe Coulombe, the person in charge of the province’s Residual Materials Strategy, and he indicated that the Ministry is aware that a 100% organics diversion target will pose challenges for rural communities. Currently the target for organic diversion is set at 70% for 2019. The Province will be holding further consultations and rural municipalities still have the ability to propose better solutions than following the urban model.
Now we have nothing against composting. Like many people, we have been composting for decades. It is pretty easy to do, keeps down the amount of garbage we put out and we get fertilizer for the garden. We are all for composting. We just can’t see the benefit of trucks going door to door to collect it when sometimes there are several kilometers between doors.
Pontiac had a population of 5,850 in 2016, just a little over the arbitrary cut-off for being a small municipality. The actual population density for Pontiac, which is what matters when costing a trucking route, is 13 people per square kilometer. By comparison the Municipality of Chelsea, with a population of just 1000 more people, has a population density of 61 people per square kilometre.
The first problem with collecting organic waste in a mostly rural community is that a lot of households already compost their plant waste. So there is not much stuff to collect.
The second problem with curbside collection, when the population is so dispersed, is that the negative impacts associated with garbage trucks travelling hundreds of kilometers a week starts to outweigh the benefits of removing organic waste from the waste stream.
The third and in our view most offensive problem with this scheme is that people who are already composting and doing a good thing for the environment and the economy will be asked to pay the bill for people who are not composting. This flies in the face of the Polluter Pay Principle, which is supposed to guide waste management policy in Quebec.
What is the Solution?
- Encourage home composting. Providing state of the art composting bins to every household in the Municipality will be cheaper in the long-run than ongoing collection. Implement an education program to teach people to compost at home.
- For residents who do not want to compost at home, a system of centralized collection bins should be investigated, so that trucks are not driving to houses to pick up nothing.