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In case of strike, use composter

Environmentalists say non-meat organics don't belong in landfill

Fri Jun 19 2009

Whatever happened to composting?

As the City of Toronto prepares for a possible garbage strike as soon as Monday over the issues of job security, seniority and the right to bank and cash out sick days at retirement, environmentalists are disappointed officials aren't urging people to step up use of backyard composters.

"I would have thought the first thing would be to say if you have access to a composter at home or somewhere in the neighbourhood, put your vegetable and fruit matter in the composter," said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

"It means people have to be diligent because bones and meat products cannot go in there, but you've got a much smaller quantity to worry about if you've taken out all the fruit and vegetable matter and put it in a backyard composter."

In rolling out its plans for a possible strike, city officials say they want approximately 400,000 homeowners to toss both food waste and dry garbage into double-bagged, securely tied plastic garbage bags.

"We're going back to the old style of everything goes in the garbage," said city spokesperson Rob Andrusevich.

People are being requested to store their garbage for the first week of a strike. Garbage can be dropped off at any of the city's seven waste transfer stations, and after five days additional drop off locations will be announced.

The decree that all garbage go in the same bag is disappointing, Hartmann said.

"It sounds like if it's all going into one bag, they're going to send it off to a landfill, which would be unfortunate. It is a step backwards."

The city prides itself on its success diverting garbage from landfill through the green bin program, which turns organic material – comprising 30 per cent of household waste – into compost. In 2008, 44 per cent of all household waste (including apartments) was composted instead of being dumped in a landfill.

City spokesman Kevin Sack said that changes in the event of a labour disruption. He confirmed the city plans to truck everything – organics and dry waste – to landfills near London and in Michigan.

Sack said these are the same landfills the city uses to dump dry garbage, with the only difference being that organics would be added.

However, he stressed that the city wants people to continue separating organics from dry garbage as they do now, in case there's a short strike and organics processing resumes quickly.

"I will continue to separate my green bin and regular garbage," Sack said. "I will do that up until the moment that I need to take it to either a transfer station or one of the temporary drop-off locations. Then I will combine these into a bag, and double bag it."

The exception to all this is Etobicoke, where organics and dry garbage is picked up by a private contractor and that will continue if there's a strike, he said. The city expects to be able to process organics collected in Etobicoke during a labour disruption.

Councillors on the public works and infrastructure committee, which oversees garbage handling, haven't been briefed on the garbage plans, said Councillor Chin Lee, a committee member.

"We haven't been given those sorts of details," Lee said.

Hartmann said he wonders why the city couldn't set up two piles at garbage drop-off locations, one for organics and one for dry garbage.

"The city hasn't really provided a rationale for why they're not going to continue collecting the green bin stuff separately. Everybody understands that the potential strike is going to be a challenge and during that time, certain things have to change. But tell us why. Make it transparent to people."

As posted on: http://www.thestar.com/article/653431

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