Friday, December 8, 2023

Clear Garbage Bag Program Not Necessary, Consider Education

I have done so much thinking, reading, researching and contemplating about Aurora’s soon to be implemented clear garbage bag program, that I came to one very simple conclusion: the Town of Aurora does not need to spend $45,000 on a clear garbage bag program. Actually, the Town of Aurora needs to invest their time into finding innovative and cost effective ways to educate Aurora residents on household waste management.

There are many great resources from the Town on how to manage household waste, an example being the Waste Management and Recycling Calendar published every year. There are also online resources available from York Region. However, I do have a comment about the information provided in our local waste management calendar; unfortunately, it is just a guide and directory listing what goes where and when.

“Education is every day and everywhere, the only thing you have to pay is attention.” ~ by Tim Fargo

When the clear garbage bag program surfaced last year I began to occasionally initiate conversations with multiple residents of Aurora. The more I talked about clear garbage bags coming the more it was clear to me that people are not ignorant about sorting their garbage properly. The people of Aurora do try to follow the Town’s rules and sorting guides while not knowing what eventually happens to their household waste after it is picked up from the curbside. And not really knowing that hazardous and electronic waste have bad effects on the environment. Clearly they don’t understand the process and financial burden on the Town if waste is not sorted according to the Town’s guides. If we think that’s ignorance, then I believe that ignorance can be cured with some education. Knowledge and understanding are the drivers of sustainable systems; unfortunately Aurora’s current ‘clear garbage bag program’ appears to be focused more on policing rather than educating – in my opinion that’s often a recipe for failure.

I know that talking to about 30 people doesn’t represent the entire Town but about 80% of those that I spoke to were following the Town guides on household waste management whereas only about 15% knew about the environmental side effects and financial implications of not following. According to my numbers, I think we have a knowledge issue rather than just a diversion issue.

Our Town is using Markham’s statistics as a model to implement the clear garbage bag program in Aurora. To date no formal studies or audits were performed in the Town of Aurora to indicate that we don’t follow the guides. The clear garbage bag program is based on the assumption that we do not divert household waste according to the guides.

Chemistry plays a big role in waste management, a subject that may not interest many. Therefore, creative ways are necessary to convey to residents the message about household waste management. I asked some simple questions and they were not that simple to a few. Do you know why we can’t throw electronic waste and batteries in the garbage and do you understand why it is necessary for them to be dropped off at a household hazardous waste depot? Why are grass clippings not allowed in yard waste bags or green compost bins? What happens to our garbage after curbside pickup? Why does the soiled part of the cardboard pizza box go to the green compost bin and the unsoiled part into the blue recycle box? What do you do with shredded paper if you cannot put into the blue recycle box?

I think if people really understood how harsh our garbage is on the environment we would not have to go through the exercise of a clear bag program. If people really understood why we have to sort this way but not that way, we could avoid illegal dumping and littering. Rather than trying to commit to memory the lists and rules of the clear bag program, recycling, composting, yard waste, hazardous waste and more, let’s put the focus on understanding why.

UPDATE: The controversial Town of Aurora Clear Garbage Bag program was never implemented due to strong public opposition.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

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