Made on Manitoulin: garbage or waste management solutions?

To the Expositor:

Big city garbage woes have finally found their way to our beautiful Island, specifically Central Manitoulin. Our dumps are full and we now face the prospect of trucking our waste to off-Island landfills. As the convoys of garbage trucks disappear over the horizon with our waste headed to Espanola, they, like our weekly deposits at the curbside will be out of sight and out of mind. We’re human—that’s just how we think.

Fortunately, however, next year’s property tax bills will have increased so dramatically that we’ll be painfully reminded of the impact this decision has made on both our municipal and personal budgets. Nobody yet knows exactly how much the increase will be, but it won’t be small. The rising costs of fuel and insurance will guarantee that all of us will have to come up with plenty more to pay for this change in our waste management practice. Everyone, the working poor, seniors on fixed income, the unemployed, business owners…everyone.

So now what? We have to see this as an opportunity to do something much more creative and innovative than just trucking trash out of sight. As a community we don’t yet know enough to guide our elected leaders toward viable solutions. Let’s face it; staff in small municipalities may not have the expertise or the luxury of time to become specialists in this area of growing importance. Elected councillors are themselves essentially volunteers and are also not professionally equipped to deal with the volumes of technical and regulatory data that accompany the complex issues of waste management.

We need education—public education that informs us all of the options like: how our partners in other communities are successfully dealing with better programs of separation and recycling; and, how experimental projects using composters are creating natural gas to generate local electricity and high quality topsoil. Are these things we should try on Manitoulin? If these things offer even the remotest possibility of controlling our waste management costs (and our property tax increases) we need to be looking at them very seriously.

Our Island municipalities should find the budget to create a position for a Waste Management Officer responsible for dealing with the present challenges and exploring the viability of promising emerging technologies that will help us deal with our garbage in more responsible ways than simply throwing off the Island…because trucking it away does just that.

It’s our waste, it’s our responsibility, it’s also our opportunity. Let’s not just truck it away.

Alex Baran, chair

Providence Bay Residents’ Association