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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cold feet

Despite the overwhelming support for the green bin program last January, the pilot project has stalled again. We found the money ($100,000) in the 2010 budget, staff worked with the test community to help them understand the program and to get baseline measures, the bins were purchased and the tender sent out. Then we hit a snag.

We needed to find a place to deposit the material for processing. Although three companies responded to our tender, only one qualified. The two local businesses had difficulties. Orgaworld has been shut down due to continuing odour problems, and Try Recycling has not yet received certification. That left a location in in Arthur, north of Kitchener, and additional costs and environmental impacts of trucking the materials.
Obviously, it would have been preferable to be able to deposit and process the materials locally. However, the project would have required one trip per week and, as Councillor Nancy Branscombe pointed out, this is not garbage, it is a resource to be processed into a desirable green product, compost. In that regard, it is no different from all the other “products” we send up and down the highways every day. And although there is a cost involved, we could do our own trucking with existing staff. The project would still come in under budget.

Nevertheless, the prospect of hijacking the project was just too tempting for those who had been opposed to the project all along-Controllers Gosnell and Polhill, and Councillor VanMeerbergen- and were happy to find any excuse to stall it. They were happily joined by Councillors Caranci (who apparently had recovered from his earlier epiphany) and Miller. The mayor, fearing a permanent setback, brought forward a motion to defer for six months, which was ultimately supported by a majority of council.

To delay another six months is not a disaster, but it sets the program back further and means that extra work will have to be done to get it up and running. And, as Councillor Usher pointed out, there is no guarantee that there will not be further delays when the six months have expired. And London lags far behind other cities as it is.

As I canvass in Ward 9, I hear both support for and opposition to the green bin. In Lambeth and Byron, many residents live on very large lots which at one time (and some still do) accommodated septic systems. They have plenty of room for backyard composting and many do. I myself live on such a lot and have been composting more than 30 years. But for the elderly, composting in winter is not safe or feasible. And increasingly we are living in apartments and condos or houses on very small lots. A green bin is a must, especially if we are to meet the provincial target of 60% diversion rate. With one-third of our garbage consisting of compostables, that target is unattainable without a green bin program.

The other allegation I hear on the campaign trail is that council is seen as indecisive. We constantly re-consider, delay and defer. Our track record was not helped by this performance.

In the end, council got cold feet. An election looms, trepidation rules.

Opposed to the deferral were Controller Barber and Councillors Branscombe, Eagle, and Usher. Councillors Bryant and Winninger were absent. All other voted to defer.

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