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Activists want city to use recycled gravel

Apr 16, 2009 04:30 AM



With Greater Toronto poised to start an infrastructure building boom, environmentalists say it's time for politicians to require the use of recycled gravel, sand and stone in projects instead of digging new quarries on prime land.

"While a bag of stones or gravel may look fairly benign, the process of getting it to us is anything but benign," warns a Toronto Environmental Alliance report released yesterday. "(It's) mined from the earth, either dug out of pits or blasted out of quarries."

And the impact of digging huge holes on the Niagara Escarpment or Oak Ridges Moraine is significant, affecting water supply, destroying wetlands, plant and aquatic habitats as vegetation, topsoil and subsoil are removed, the report adds.

Projections are the region will need 1.5 billion tonnes of gravel for roads, bridges, sewers and buildings in the next 25 years. If only new stone were used, it would create the equivalent of a hole six storeys deep from The Kingsway to Greenwood Ave., and from Bloor St. to the lake.

Singer Sarah Harmer believes that if people realized their basements were being constructed from rock carved out of a precious ecological area, they would want politicians to act, the report suggests.

"I do believe we are at a turning point," said Harmer, who has opposed a plan to expand a quarry near her family's Burlington home. "We know water is a finite resource, and these ecosystems are irreplaceable."

Harmer, who says she was spoiled growing up on the Escarpment, "wading through ponds, looking at ... incredible flora and fauna," believes it's imperative not to damage "natural infrastructure" to create the "built infrastructure."

The alliance's Jamie Kirkpatrick says municipalities can be leaders in demanding change, for instance by building narrower roads in new subdivisions so as to use less gravel, or requiring in contracts that recycled materials be used.

"They buy the stuff. They can dictate what they buy," he said.

In Toronto, all road work contracts specify the use of recycled material first, then new material can be used, but there is usually an added cost, said Mark Berkovitz, a senior engineer in transportation.

But Berkovitz said the city doesn't know exactly how much recycled material is actually used. The cost for fine granular material is the same, but for larger material, recycled is about 20 per cent cheaper.

Brampton has tried to reduce the amount of new sand it buys to put on local roads in winter to improve traction. After a pilot project last year, the sand was collected and, instead of going to landfill, it was processed, cleaned and reused.

"We're looking at every opportunity to recycle," said Edward van Ravens, Brampton's manager of contracted services with works and transportation.

Toronto has also ground up glass – usually unrecyclable coloured glass – or old porcelain toilets, and mixed it in with gravel.

"We did some projects with that," said Berkovitz, though he conceded it can be prohibitively costly given the work required to process it.

As published at: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/619228

Activists want city to use recycled gravel April 16 2009.pdf32.02 KB