Council Watch - October 2009

Tell us what you think in 5 minutes!, Toronto Misses Waste Diversion Target but Continues the Work, Join TEA and Community, Activists to build a Green Economy for Toronto, City to Discuss Sustainable Energy Strategy on November 2nd, Growing Ontario's Greenbelt Further into Toronto!

1. Tell us what you think in 5 minutes! 

We are currently under-going a strategic planning process to determine our future direction. This survey is a vital part of this process. Your input is appreciated and important to ensure that our members’ and supporters’ voices are considered in our strategic plan. The survey should only take about 5 to 7 minutes to complete.

At the end of the survey you will be asked if you would like to provide your contact information. This is optional. If you choose to include your contact information, you will be entered in a draw to win a $70 gift certificate to Fressen, a local vegetarian restaurant in Toronto that kindly supports TEA.

2. Toronto Misses Waste Diversion Target but Continues the Work

Toronto’s waste department recently announced at Budget Committee that we will not reach our goal of diverting 70% of our residential waste from landfill in 2010. If we are lucky, we might make it there by 2012. The delay stems from two main issues. First is implementing blue and green bin programs fully throughout Toronto apartment buildings. The City had originally planned to have all buildings participating in the blue and green bins by the end of 2010. After 9 months of outreach, only about 300 buildings in total have been brought on and staff’s new projection suggests that they will not have all Toronto’s apartment buildings participating until fall 2011, putting the program about 9 months behind schedule. So while single family households will be at 65-70% diversion by 2010, apartments will be hovering more around 20%, making Toronto’s total residential diversion rate around 50% at the end of next year.

The delays experienced in the last 9 months must be resolved immediately to ensure the program’s timely future roll-out. Otherwise Toronto may need to look at more drastic actions. For example, San Francisco recently passed a bylaw that green bin service must be installed in all apartment buildings by the owners under risk of a heavy fine.

Second, Toronto desperately needs to build facilities to process green bin material. There just aren’t enough companies in Ontario to service all of the municipal green bin programs. Also, some of those companies have questionable environmental practices, which has lead to Toronto having to cancel some contracts. Toronto has plans to build two of its own composting facilities, as well as a new multi-material sorter facility at the City’s landfill that will go through our garbage one last time to pull out any useful recyclables before it is dumped. Clearly, these facilities are the right solution and can’t be built fast enough.

At a Budget Committee meeting, staff presented their proposed solid waste management operating and capital budgets for 2010. The plan asks for the necessary funds to roll-out the Green Bin program in apartments and build additional organics processing capacity in the City. TEA will be analyzing the numbers over the next couple of weeks to ensure that the City is moving as quickly as possible, and to provide recommendations if they aren’t.

While missing our 70% waste diversion target for 2010 is a setback for Toronto, it is far from a failure. Toronto hasn’t given up, green and blue bins are still being rolled out in Toronto's 500,000 apartments. Nor is our target an unrealistic political promise by Mayor Miller. Toronto joins New York, San Francisco and other North American cities that are reaching for similar goals and beyond. Some of these cities have had decades of help from state and provincial governments that divert all kinds of waste through regulated programs like deposit-return on beverage containers.

Our province has just recently created such programs for electronics, hazardous waste and LCBO containers and Environment Minister Gerretsen has promised more to come. If the province and Toronto act together without further delay we could be diverting well beyond 70% by the end of Council’s next term. Any candidate for Mayor or Council must support aggressive diversion in their 2010 election platform, or risk reviving our dirty past of fighting with nearby communities for a place to dump our waste.

Katrina Miller, Campaigns Director, Toronto Environmental Alliance

3. Join TEA and Community Activists to build a Green Economy for Toronto

Want to connect with other community activists interested in creating good green jobs for all? Want to be at the cutting edge of building a green economy in Toronto?

4. City to Discuss Sustainable Energy Strategy on November 2nd

The City will finally be releasing its Sustainable Energy Plan to be discussed at Council's Executive Committee meeting on Monday November 2nd. As Council Watch readers will recall, the City's Smog and Climate Change Plan, Change is in the Air, had some very promising high level recommendations about energy conservation and renewable energy development.

Unfortunately, there has been significant delay in turning these good ideas into an implementation plan. In March of this year, our Mid Term Environmental Report Card highlighted this delay and suggested what the City could do to speed things up.

We'll be looking carefully at the City's new strategy and let you know whether the strategy fulfills the promise outlined in Change is in the Air. 

5. Growing Ontario's Greenbelt Further into Toronto

On October 15th the City’s Parks and Environment Committee took an important step toward adding a new layer of protection to Toronto’s river valley lands. At TEA’s urging, City Staff will report in January on the idea of growing Ontario’s Greenbelt further into Toronto through the Don and Humber River valleys. Growing the Greenbelt in Toronto will not only expand the level of protection given to Toronto’s natural heritage spaces but it will also help forge a direct connection to locally grown food in the Greenbelt’s protected countryside.