It was not the news a small group, gathered yesterday at the Havilland Waste Site, hoped for.
“We thought we had this nailed down last week. Unfortunately the option that we were looking at isn’t an option anymore,” announced Mike Mantha, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP, of the urgent need for bridge funding from June 2015 to June 2016 that is required to keep recycling services operational for residents north of the Sault.
The news is disheartening for the community and especially for Greg Long of GT Waste Systems. Long has expanded his refuse collection to include curbside recycling pick-up. It was always a break-even component of the business but Long was motivated by a sense of environmental stewardship to offer the service.
Though area residents have agreed to absorb the $60,000 plus through taxes to keep recycling services active that money will not be in their tax base until July 2016.
That’s about 12 months too late to enable Long to maintain the expense of hanging on to his recycling truck and equipment.
“If bridge funding doesn’t come through within the next four weeks, I’ll have to sell the equipment we use to take care of the recycling part of the business. And that means we won’t have what we need to take up recycling in 2016 when the tax money comes through,” he shared.
The recycling portion of Long’s business sustained two full-time positions which will be lost without the temporary funding. Also, Long provided affordable and accessible recycling services for area residents.
According to Holly Hughes, chairperson for the Sault North Waste Management Council (SNWMC), recycling services in the area will be lost for good. The 2016 tax base would not nearly be enough to support recycling services contracted from a larger service provider.
The bottom line- at least 50 metric tons of recyclables will end up in the Havilland landfill every year if recycling services are discontinued. That’s lousy for the environment and shortens the life span of the dump.
SNWMC has been working diligently to find solutions to extend the life span of the Havilland dump as well as beginning the often decades long process of locating a new waste site.
Mantha has promised to continue working with various Ministries to develop an innovative and speedy solution.
“Our government needs to recognize that we have some challenges in Northern Ontario that are not always an easy fix and we have to be creative in regards to recycling programs,” remarked Mantha. “How we address our water issues, jobs, roads, a lot of the services that we have in the North –all need to be accomplished in a way that works for Northern Ontario.”
Mantha elaborated, “When it comes to Northern Ontario where we do want to have an impact on the environment and we do want to participate in recycling – we just don’t have the numbers to make it profitable.”
So why isn’t recycling mandated an essential service? What will it take to change a culture of thinking that the profit in recycling might just actually be a healthy environment and not a dollar figure?
Mantha replied, “Well, that is how we will get these programs to flourish. Mother Nature is struggling right now. Each and every bottle, each and every can and each and every piece of plastic that we can take out of our waste sites, out of our waters is absolutely important. As we are setting our polices, us as MP’s and MPP’s, we really need to challenge ourselves. Some programs may be profitable but how are we going to make it work in other parts of the province that don’t have the volume of people that other parts of the province do? We have individuals willing to participate in this program and want to take their footprint out of the environment. How are we going to help them along to participate in a recycling program?”
In the meantime, Hughes et al haven’t given up just yet. “This is a last ditch effort,” she said. “Whatever the solution is we need to have a cheque cut in time to be able to make a payment to continue this service.”
(feature image, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP, Mike Mantha, Greg Long- GT Waste Systems, Holly Hughes- Sault North Waste Management Council)