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Dig Conservation, Not Holes

Over the next 25 years, the GTA will need to renew its urban infrastructure. At the same time the GTA will need to house millions more new Ontarians. This will mean building new urban infrastructure to accommodate a larger population while trying to minimize development that destroys our remaining natural spaces. Aggregate will be required to meet these pressing needs.

The question GTA residents – in particular elected officials – need to ask themselves is whether they want this aggregate demand to be met by destroying precious ecologically-sensitive land and farmland, much of it in the Greenbelt?

Below are thumbnails of two maps that help provide a picture of what is at stake and how much land would be required to mine the 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregate needed to sustain our annual usage.

Toronto's Big Pit


Giant Quarry Needed for GTA Demand

The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is literally made of stone, sand and gravel, collectively known as aggregate. Aggregate is in the cement we use to make sidewalks, bridges, large buildings, sewers, the foundations of our homes, and the underground tunnels for subways, cars, and pedestrian walkways.  Large amounts of aggregate are also used to make our roads, both the beds on which they sit and the asphalt we use to pave them. Put simply, aggregate is everywhere.

According to industry estimates, the GTA will use about 1.5 billion tonnes of aggregate over the next 25 years.

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The Environmental Impacts

Creating the pits or quarries requires the removal of virtually all natural vegetation, top soil and subsoil to reach the aggregate underneath. Not only does this lead to a loss of existing animal wildlife, it also leads to a huge loss of biodiversity as plants and aquatic habitats are destroyed. Moreover, adjacent eco-systems are affected by noise, dust, pollution and contaminated water.

Pits and quarries disrupt the existing movement of surface water and groundwater; they interrupt natural water recharge and can lead to reduced quantity and quality of drinking water for residents and wildlife near or downstream from a quarry site.

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Preserving the Greenbelt by Practicing the 3Rs

We do not need to destroy more of the Greenbelt to ensure the GTA’s infrastructure is maintained and grows. The simple solution, as outlined by the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance is to take something we practice every day at home – the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) and apply it to aggregate use in our cities.

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Take Action: What you can do and what we are urging all municipalities to do

Want to make sure we don’t dig holes in the precious countryside surrounding the GTA to get the gravel we need to renew our roads, buildings, and bridges? 

Contact your local Councillor (Councillor contact information) and ask them to adopt TEA’s recommendations to practice the 3Rs for gravel use and help save the countryside we and our rural neighbours depend on.

See sample text that you can consider using for your letter.

We urge all GTA municipalities to adopt the following recommendations:

  1. Ensure that any new requests of proposals (RFPs) that include the use of aggregate require the successful bidder to demonstrate they will use the highest level of recycled content allowable under provincial standards.

  2. Provide detailed information to the public on aggregate use within the municipality that includes:
    • How much and what type of aggregate is used for various types of urban infrastructure (eg. roads, sidewalks, bridges, sewers, etc) within the municipality annually
    • How much of the aggregate used is “virgin”, how much is recycled and how much comes from alternative sources
    • Where the aggregate comes from, including specific pits and quarries, and the quantities from each source
    • Projected aggregate use over the next 25 years
  3. Investigate how other jurisdictions effectively reduce “virgin” aggregate use through the use of 3Rs and report out to the appropriate council committee with recommendations about how the municipality can adopt similar strategies.

  4. Urge the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to ensure the 3Rs are the cornerstone of any updated aggregate policy for the Province and that it investigates and implements the production of “sustainable” aggregate.

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