OPINION: We need to have the trash talk

Fellow Ottawans – we are failing when it comes to waste reduction. For the last 10 years, according to the city, what has been diverted from landfill has not changed significantly. Considering the environmental impact of landfilling and that the City of Ottawa is projecting Trail West will be full by 2038, diversion has to be the goal. In Stittsville, this is doubly important as the West Carleton landfill prepares to re-open, which can be used for residential waste should the city pay for the usage.

At this stage of the city’s creation of the Solid Waste Master Plan, they are looking for opinions on three options: (1) Pay As You Throw; (2) Clear Garbage Bags with Material Bans; or (3) Reduced Firm Item Limits. Pay As You Throw allows you to buy tags for any extra bags that exceed the limit. Clear Garbage Bags allows collectors to refuse to pick up bags that contain organics or recyclables. Reduced Firm Item Limit means residents will only be permitted a maximum amount of items or bags per collection date.

Waste reduction is a tricky subject that requires governments, companies and consumers to work in tandem but as we focus on what we can do as consumers, it is important to consider the following flaws with the above proposed models.

Pay As You Throw becomes an issue of equity. For a public service in our community, it should be equally accessible from low income to upper income residents. In the name of diversion, residents need to become hyper aware of what they deem as garbage and not be able to purchase their way out of this realization.

Clear Garbage Bags has many flaws. It asks even more of our collection staff who now have to become police officers at the curb, it conveys a false sense of compliance when residents could very easily hide organics or recyclable waste in acceptable items (ie: bye bye banana peel in this chip bag), and it forces residents to use plastic bags, therefore sending even more plastic to landfill.

Reduced Firm Item Limits comes the closest to a viable solution, but with some considerations. We need a lot more education, incentives and support of organizations that encourage re-use and less consumption. We need more neighborhood-based sharing or “Give Away Weekends”. We need continual action from our government to force companies to reduce overpackaging.    

Make your case until September 10th at https://engage.ottawa.ca/solid-waste-master-plan. Do the survey. Send questions. Join a workshop.  

But remember, reduction has to be our goal. We need a future without the trash talk.

To get involved or to support Eco West Enders, join and follow the non-profit organization on their Facebook page or Instagram page.

Karen Swerdfeger is the founder of Eco West Enders, a west Ottawa based sustainability group focused on waste reduction at a consumer, government and corporate level. She lives in Stittsville.


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