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Residents still unhappy about leaf collection

Cathy Dobson As Sarnia residents adjust to recent changes in garbage and leaf collection, city staff is preparing for more changes.
Leaves in plastic bags line the curb of Lakeshore Road in this file photo from November, 2018. Plastic bags for leaf collection are no longer permitted in Sarnia. Glenn Ogilvie

Cathy Dobson

As Sarnia residents adjust to recent changes in garbage and leaf collection, city staff is preparing for more changes.

“We anticipate provincial legislation that will mandate the city to implement a food waste diversion program in three to four years,” says Bryan Prouse, Sarnia’s operations manager.

Once food is removed from the garbage stream and sent for composting the waste trucked to landfill will be reduced drastically, he told about 50 members of the Sarnia-Lambton Golden K Club last week.

Bryan Prouse

Sarnia diverts only about 35% of its garbage from landfill, a number that increased only slightly after a three-bag weekly limit was imposed on households in 2012.

“The province wants that doubled,” Prouse said.  “We would expect that diversion will go up significantly with a food waste program.”

Some Ontario municipalities already have programs in which householders separate biodegradable kitchen scraps into containers for curbside collection, weekly or bi-weekly.

Prouse noted residents needn’t wait for a formal municipal program to begin composting food scraps in their own backyards.

Leaves and other yard waste have been a hot topic in Sarnia and Point Edward since they implemented a strict new rule requiring it be placed in paper — not plastic — bags, or in open containers marked with an X.

“Our phones have been busy with people calling in to ask, ‘Why, why, why?’” said Prouse.

Many residents say paper bags fall apart in wet weather and dew.  They’ve had to change their habits and place leaves and grass out shortly before pickup, Prouse said.

When paper bags aren’t practical, plastic bins with holes drilled in the bottom make for a

Tina D’Andrea

“much more pleasant choice,” said Tina D’Andrea, the city’s new waste reduction accounts supervisor.

Prouse also encourages backyard leaf composting, or mulching leaves and leaving them on the lawn.

Some residents also object to new rules that banned plastic bags for recyclables.

That isn’t going to change, said Prouse.  Only one company bid for the new four-year Sarnia-Point Edward recycling contract and that company, Emterra, stipulated no plastic bags.

“It’s because plastic bags get shredded in the machinery at the recycling facility in Burlington and contaminate the recyclables,” Prouse explained.

“We had one bid. That’s why our hands are tied. We have to live within the terms of that bid.”

For the first time, the recycling contract allows for paper coffee cups in blue boxes, and that’s an improvement, Prouse said.

And most of the recyclable materials placed in blue boxes can be sold because Sarnians are cleaning them properly. Only 5% is considered non-recyclable, he said.

“That’s very good. We can pat ourselves on the back.”

The city receives about $500,000 a year from blue boxes, a figure that fluctuates depending on the price of steel, aluminum, plastics and paper.

Glass hasn’t generated income for years and steel is not as lucrative as it once was. But aluminum, newspaper and some more sturdy plastic pop bottles create profit.

Anyone needing additional blue boxes can buy them at City Hall for $7 each. A new shipment just arrived.

With the emphasis on recycling, the city may reduce the weekly garbage bag limit even more in future, Prouse hinted.

For those who exceed the limit, bag tags are available at City Hall for $1.50 each.

“In theory, garbage should be less odorous (without organic kitchen material) in future. There should be less of it and maybe we can also collect less frequently,” Prouse said.

The city unrolled numerous waste collection changes this summer, but city council didn’t allocate funds for community education. However, staff is available for group presentations.  If interested, contact Tina D’Andrea at 519-344-1932 ext. 2247.

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