From Zero Diversion to Zero Waste

From and article to appear in the mid September 2014 issue of the Bruce Peninsula Press celebrating 25 years of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group

by Tom Boyle

It’s a long road from zero diversion to zero waste, but after 25 years, we’re halfway there.

The early history of the Bruce Peninsula Environment Group closely parallels the development of best practices for solid waste management on the Northern Bruce Peninsula. At the group's preliminary meetings in the fall of 1989, there was lively discussion concerning various ways and means to reduce, reuse and recycle. The three northern pre-amalgamated Bruce Peninsula municipalities that owned and operated landfill sites at the time had implemented site supervision and hours of operation. While the "dump sites" were often popular places to visit they offered little or no modern waste management solutions. What the early efforts of BPEG clearly demonstrated was a growing demand by many residents to participate in programs to divert useful waste material from the disposal sites and to put these materials back into the product stream.

At first there were some attempts to craft some "local" solutions for waste management. In the Township of Eastnor, two individuals constructed a processor to shred newspaper and create a mulchlike material for livestock bedding. Delbert and Kelly recall that this system worked fairly well except that the conveyor clogged, causing a rather explosive back-up that covered the whole yard with a thick coating of fine paper. Delbert claimed that it was a very good material but after the clean-up Bev would not allow any further experimentation.

In 1990-91, with the encouragement of local councils, BPEG obtained a grant from Shell Oil to fund a recycling depot at the municipal yard in Ferndale. This was the beginning of joint cooperation in diversion among municipalities, which would continue until the amalgamation at the end of the decade. Records show that in December of 1990 Ziggy Kleinau and I attended a meeting in Southampton of regional partners seeking economies of scale. In 1991 at an allcandidates meeting in October and at a BPEG "Speak Your Mind" event in November, waste diversion was a high priority.

After the election the northern councils opted to fund rural recycling depots located first at the Eastnor Township yard in Ferndale and shortly afterwards at the entrance to the landfill site in St. Edmunds Township. Other Bruce County municipalities eventually formed the Bruce Area Solid Waste Association and began to supply curb-side collection with a blue box system. The northern municipalities chose to retain the depot system due to the seasonal nature of the collection and the difficult geography of long dead-end roads. This system remains in place today with five recycling depot sites in the amalgamated municipality and three welldesigned waste management sites to capture other non-blue box diverted material.

BPEG has remained directly involved in waste diversion on the Bruce Peninsula and the later history is documented on the BPEG website. Since 2006 a BPEG subcommittee has met regularly with municipal staff and reported as members of a committee of council with recommendations that have resulted in program enhancements and continuing public education. BPEG members have consulted with various sectors such as contractors and cottage owners and toured other municipal sites and processing facilities. They have been instrumental in the development of a Municipal Waste Diversion Plan along with a Waste Management Master Plan.

Recently when drafting the 2012 Waste Diversion Calendar the BPEG committee reflected on the importance of the adoption of a "Zero Waste" policy of best practice. In December of 1991 after visiting a community on an island in British Columbia, Stuart Burgess spoke matter of factly of a community that made no waste. Once an interesting concept, Zero Waste is now a goal.


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