After months of deliberation finally the controversial clear garbage bag program has come to an end. On March 10th, 2015 Aurora Town Council voted against the clear garbage bag program. I am glad that the majority of Aurora Town Council listened to residents who were against it, including myself. In my opinion the program failed because there was too much emphasis being put on the clear bag change rather than educating the residents on the importance of waste management. The program was supposed to encourage the Town of Aurora residents to divert even more recyclable, compostable, hazardous and other non-garbage materials specified by the Town, away from the garbage stream thus keeping those items away from incinerators and landfills. I think it is important to note that diversion is important because it distributes waste to the appropriate stream for proper disposal but it does nothing to reduce the overall amount and type of waste generated.
So we are done with the program and what more can be said? I think there is a lot to talk about moving forward especially regarding environmental issues and waste management as a whole. I have done quite a bit of reading and researching in the past few months and I found that the main issue with people that I talked to was that most of them sorted their garbage as per the guidelines but they had no clear understanding why they were doing it. I call this a habit developed by enforcement. There is nothing wrong with that but that habit is not sustainable and I think that it is why sometimes things slip from one waste stream to another one.
However, I cannot stress enough that residents and people everywhere need to be more ‘academically’ educated on the environmental impacts of the waste we generate. People need to understand why hazardous materials are dangerous in the incinerators and why they are also dangerous in the landfills. Did you ever wonder why in the Town of Aurora grass clippings are not allowed in any collected waste stream? Not in garbage, not in compost, not in yard waste either; just cut and leave on your lawn. The knowledge and education provided by the town to date is more factual, guide-type and ‘for your information only‘. Maybe if we were to include information that is more academic, clearer, and more direct I think that could help our residents understand the reasons for diverting, and in the long run that would result in more sustainable waste management habits.
Perhaps I am asking for too much. I understand that it is not the responsibility of the Town of Aurora to provide academic education; however, maybe it can be done indirectly with green initiative events, programs and seminars that can be arranged by our Aurora Public Library, Aurora Cultural Centre, Aurora Farmers Market and might as well include Hillary House. With a little creativity we can be doing something great for the environment in our Town and with minimal additional financial costs to tax payers.
So let me clarify something about grass clippings. The Aurora Waste Management Guide and Recycling Calendar 2015 does not explicitly state that grass clippings are not allowed in any collected waste stream. Many residents use the waste management guide and recycling calendar as their only guide. If I were to do the same I would be confused by the section related to grass clippings – from my perspective it’s not clear if the section is meant to provide words of encouragement or a rule to be followed.
This is how it reads: “Grasscycling is an easy way to provide your lawn with great nutrition. Just leave the clippings on the ground. Grass clippings help retain moisture in your lawn and supply the soil with nitrogen, which creates lush, green grass. So, make life easy – when you mow your grass leave the clippings on the lawn!” Source: Aurora’s Waste Management Guide and Recycling Calendar 2015, pg 8 (check paper version).
So could we put grass clippings in any of the collected waste streams: garbage, compost, or yard waste?
Based on the current information on the Town of Aurora web site Garbage By-law Number 4931-07.E (check aurora.ca for the latest version) grass clippings are not allowed in any collected waste stream including yard waste. One could combine the information from the Town By-law and the Town waste management and recycling guide and conclude that ‘grasscylcing‘ has the benefit of nourishing our lawns while avoiding the unnecessary costs of collecting grass clippings in yard waste.
Well all that seems to make sense for Aurora. But strangely enough, according to The Regional Municipality of York 2013 Annual Diversion Report, pg 21 there is one municipality in York Region that does allow grass clippings to be collected in yard waste and they also have the highest number of yard waste collections at 25 per year – that one municipality is Vaughan. What is different in Vaughan that would allow them to collect grass clippings in yard waste? Perhaps, the residents of Vaughan have a different perspective on ‘grasscycling’ and they are willing to pay extra for the collection? Well that’s another discussion altogether.
Here’s another one to think about: did you know that shredded paper is not allowed in blue box recycling?
Anna Lozyk Romeo, Editor’s Notes
Copyright 2015 Anna Lozyk Romeo / community FOCUS LivingInAurora.com