Recycling in Merrickville-Wolford is likely to remain status quo until Ontario implements the producer responsibility model in the municipality in 2023.
At the council meeting of March 8, council received a report from staff outlining their options when it comes to increasing recycling capabilities in the municipality. The report is the direct response to a petition of almost 200 signatures spearheaded by Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford, asking council to explore ways of expanding the Village’s recycling and waste diversion program.
The staff report gave council three options to consider. They could remain with their current contract with Limerick Environmental at $45,152 a year until the province implements the producer responsibility model; direct staff to hire a qualified external consultant to obtain pricing and options for a new recycling program and evaluate the benefits of issuing a request for proposal; or look for opportunities to partner with other surrounding municipalities for one large recycling program.
Mayor Doug Struthers believes that the Village already has a relatively robust recycling program. The province requires municipalities to offer recycling for five basic materials: aluminum food or beverage cans, glass bottles and jars, newsprint, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for food or beverages (like peanut butter jars and pop bottles) and steel food and beverage cans. They also require that municipalities add two supplementary categories for recycling. According to the staff report, the Village goes beyond this legislated requirement to include aluminum foil, boxboard and paperboard, cardboard, fine paper, magazines and paper cup and plates in their recycling program. They also recently added a new electronics and rechargeable/single use battery recycling program at the landfill.
The Mayor believes that more education is the way to go when it comes to improving recycling outcomes in the municipality. This means not only educating residents about what can be recycled, but also how to recycle in order to ensure the products don’t end up in the landfill. “The peanut butter jar – it has to be clean,” he offered, as an example.
Councillor Bob Foster said that he is in favour of maintaining the current recycling contract because it is affordable. According to Manager of Operations, Brad Cole, the Township of Montague is paying Emterra Environmental $157,461 a year for their recycling program, more than triple what Merrickville-Wolford pays for Limerick Environmental’s services. “Currently the costs are under control,” he said at the meeting. “Spend more money on education and look forward to the future with what the province is doing.”
Deputy Mayor Michael Cameron disagreed with the Mayor and Councillor Foster, suggesting that council take a more active approach to recycling in the municipality. He said it might be a good option to task their Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) with creating a more comprehensive report on the subject, taking some of the pressure off staff. “I think moving in a proactive manner towards a more comprehensive study and direction for council to consider within the next 5-6 months would be an asset for us to do,” he said.
Councillor Timothy Molloy voiced his support for looking at partnering with surrounding municipalities to make an expanded recycling program more effective and affordable. “I think we should be looking at option three and see what we can do with our neighbouring municipalities, and how we could coexist with them to pick up the recycling and make it worthwhile,” he said.
In the end council passed a resolution to maintain the status quo while also directing staff to look at possible partnerships with surrounding municipalities to increase their recycling program. Chair of the EAC and member of Sustainable Merrickville-Wolford, Anney De Gobeo, says she is disappointed with council’s decision to stick with their current contract, but is hopeful that the Village will find a partnership with a neighbouring municipality that will allow them to expand recycling options. Anney’s main concern is there doesn’t seem to be a timeline or sense or urgency for discovering these partnerships, as there was for staff to bring back the initial report.
Anney says the EAC would be happy to help research options if that was the will of council. “That was the purpose of our committee in the first place,” she says. “To support council and staff in situations like that because we know that staff are taxed. We understand that. To me that is the point of having support of the EAC.”
Anney appreciates that cost is definitely a consideration when it comes to any municipal service but she hopes that staff can work around that barrier to find a better option for recycling in the municipality. “I want to stress that let’s not drop the ball,” she says. “There is still a sense of urgency here to make something happen if possible.”