A World to Waste, Part 3

September 4, 1998

By Michael Jessen

There is no shortage of anti-recyclers.

They have names like the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation and the Waste Policy Center. Their viewpoints are available on the Internet and are sometimes published in media like the New York Times, Reader's Digest, and the Toronto Globe and Mail.

Many of the above organizations are think tanks that tend to oppose government programs of any sort. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, an underlying theme of the anti-recyclers is that government bureaucrats have imposed recycling on people against their will, conjuring up an image of Big Brother hiding behind every recycling bin.

Raymond Gaudart believes the anti-recyclers deal in myths and half-truths. After eight years as Solid Waste Management Coordinator for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary and two years as president of the Recycling Council of B.C., Gaudart has no doubts that recycling provides our society with several major benefits.

"Recycling cuts pollution and conserves natural resources and energy," says Gaudart from his office in Trail. "In addition, recycling creates jobs and reduces costs in manufacturing sectors that are an important part of our economy."

As Solid Waste Management Coordinator, Gaudart is convinced that sensibly designed and implemented recycling programs can be cost-competitive with landfilling.

"We (the RDKB) discovered in 1996 that finding a new landfill can cost between $3 and $4 million while closing an old landfill and opening a new one can cost an additional $2 million," Gaudart says. "In the past these costs were never factored into the cost of burying garbage."

Anti-recyclers often state that the recycling movement is a product of a false "crisis" in landfill space. Such an opinion misses the point states Gaudart.

"The greatest environmental benefits of recycling occur in reducing natural resource damage and pollution that arise when extracting virgin raw materials and manufacturing new products," he says. "In addition, we can postpone and possibly avoid these tremendously high costs of finding and opening a new landfill and closing and monitoring an old landfill."

The RDKB Board of Directors have just passed an amendment to their tipping fee schedule to increase the cost of dumping garbage from the current $33 per tonne to $42 per tonne effective January 1, 1999. In addition, the directors approved a recommendation that by the year 2000 the tipping fee be set at $60 per tonne or 75% cost recovery, whichever is less. As tipping fees go up, there will be a proportional decrease in waste management taxes. Recyclable corrugated cardboard is already banned from RDKB landfills and a ban on every recyclable paper fibre will go into effect July 1, 1999. If alternative facilities exist, all refundable beverage containers will also be banned from the district's landfills and recycling program effective Ocotober 1, 1998..

Gaudart says weigh scales will be operative at the McKelvey Creek Landfill in Trail in September and 85% of the regional district's population will be using scales to determine their waste fees.

"The objective of the tipping fee is to achieve a 75% cost recovery of all waste management costs, including recycling," he adds.

Gaudart said he doesn't agree with the anti-recycling messages contained in the June 24 Globe and Mail editorial and the August issue of Reader's Digest.

"These opinions focus only on a narrow interpretation of costs," he says. "For instance, the Reader's Digest article mentions that recycling costs Toronto $9.4 million a year, but doesn't mention that shipping Toronto's garbage to Michigan is costing the city over $13 million a year.

"These articles either don't mention the environmental benefits of recycling or discount them because they don't look at the entire life cycle cost of manufacture and disposal," says Gaudart. "As an example, the plastic industry trumpets the lower cost of shipping plastic bottles to market compared to glass. That's true but if you look at the entire life cycle of making plastic from oil, it is far more environmentally destructive than utilizing glass bottles."

For Gaudart, the anti-recyclers are mouthpieces for the packaging and manufacturing industries who have externalized their waste costs by conning municipalities into picking up the tab for years.

"It's time to remedy this situation," says Gaudart, "and I believe the actions of our regional district are helping send that message."

TRASH TIP - RDKB residents with four or less bags of garbage will see no increase in 1999 on the $1.00 per bag fee, but those with more than 4 bags will see the cost rise from $5 per cubic metre to $6 per cubic metre at refuse sites where scales are not operational.

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