I did not vote against curbside recycling; I voted against a resolution that proposed one method of implementing a curbside recycling program. I want a curbside recycling program in Lethbridge, but I want to ensure we do it right.
In my opinion, the Council resolution lacked additional policies and some oversight mechanisms for City Council. For example, the resolution stated, “Construct a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)” but did not include a business plan for the Facility, which would identify the construction cost, the operating costs, a management strategy, et cetera. Yes – we have a consultant report, but a business plan approved by City Council means Council is responsible and accountable to you. I believe that it is irresponsible of me to approve the construction of a facility without a business plan and identified costs. While I did offer an amendment directing the City Manager to present Council with a business plan, it was deemed “Out of Order” by the Chair.
The resolution also failed to address an “opt-out” clause in the proposed recycling plan. There are a couple of reasons why I support an opt-out:
- We have spent at least 2 decades teaching people to recycle on their own, through our depot system. While we have certainly made it more inconvenient for people to participate by going to 3 depots, our own data shows about 20% of our residents continue to manage their own recycled waste.
- This is a “new” service the City will provide, not an increased level of service. We are simply removing a different kind of waste from your home. Residents ought to be able to opt-out of new services.
- Although not to the scale that the City could provide, the private sector offers this service.
I attempted to introduce an amendment on an opt-out provision, but the Chair also ruled it “Out of Order”.
Additionally, the resolution called for a “Full implementation of bi-weekly residential curbside of recyclables (blue carts).” While we all understand the general products collected in a blue cart, the resolution failed to consider a policy that helps us all clearly understand what products we will recycle, why we will collect certain things, how residents are to prepare recyclables, et cetera. A policy will also answer the question of the storage of recyclables that may not carry market value (how long do we store them? What do we do with them if they are not marketable?). Of greater significance – especially to the environment - is the fact that the absence of a policy would mean that we would have no prescribed process for the disposal of recyclables (If we can’t market them, if they are contaminated, etc). Do we just dump them in the landfill? I submitted an amendment calling for such a policy, but a majority my colleagues defeated it.
We debate the resolutions in front of us and if a Member of Council feels that a resolution does not properly address an issue, then s/he will either attempt to change it, or simply vote against it. I did both.
Does this mean curbside recycling is dead? Absolutely not!! The majority of Council supports a curbside program (as per the resolution of November 2014) and I remain a part of that majority. However, we get one shot at this and doing it wrong will have huge consequences for the environment, for our community and for our budget. I believe that it is incumbent upon Council to approve a curbside program that protects the environment in a sustainable manner, that considers the diversity of our residents, and that stewards our limited financial resources to an efficient result.
Curbside is not dead. I want it too, but not at all cost. It needs to occur in a responsible and sustainable way.