While friends were opening their cottages and otherwise enjoying the May long weekend, my husband and I lined up at the City of Regina landfill with our truck full of garbage. If it couldn’t be recycled or sold, leftovers from a recent home renovation project had to be hauled away. The May long weekend seemed to be the opportunity to do it.
The City of Regina landfill operates year round, with extended hours from April 1 to October 31; perfect for homeowners embarking on renovation projects or yard work. We weren’t the only ones to take advantage of the bargain price of $2.00/load for the first three loads, the line to the weigh scale snaked out of the landfill and back to the highway. Trucks of every description were full of garbage, building supplies, and tree branches.
As we pitched the contents of our truck onto the smelly pile, I was amazed by the amount of garbage in the landfill. According to the City of Regina, one third of the waste in the landfill is generated by the residential sector, the non-residential sector accounts for the rest. About 40 percent of the landfill is garbage and the rest is dirt and asphalt to cover the garbage. About 420,000 tonnes of material is put into landfill each year. The average Regina home generates about 42 lbs of garbage each week, or about 51,000 tonnes annually. A 1996 survey by the City of Regina showed that citizens are concerned about their environment; about 80 percent of Regina citizens use the Big Blue Box for paper recycling. Even with this program, the City estimates that twenty seven percent of residential garbage in the landfill consists of paper that could have been recycled
Not all of Regina’s waste is buried in the landfill. The City of Regina operates a White Metal Recycling Program, where appliances like BBQ’s and fridges are recycled. Freon gas is extracted and the metal is sold for scrap. According to the City website, in 1999 the City recycled 579 tonnes of material and brought revenue of about $36,000 back into the city coffers. Along with appliance recycling, the City operates Christmas tree mulching and paper recycling programs. Since 1991, the Big Blue Box program has recycled about 30 tonnes of paper saving about 420,000 trees a year.
In spite of appliance and paper recycling programs, minimal programs exist in Regina to deal with household hazardous waste (HHW). The “Paint It Recycled” program operates throughout the summer with the goal of keeping environmentally toxic paint out of the landfill. As an alternative, residents are encouraged to donate old paint and building supplies to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the Salvation Army. Residents of larger centres seem to have more options for disposal of their HHW. Edmonton residents can drop off household wastes, paints, fridges, and furniture at “EcoStation” depots. The City of Calgary operates programs to recycle used tires, electronics, and computer equipment.
Composting is another alternative to reduce household waste. City of Regina statistics show that nearly half of the residential garbage produced each week consists of yard waste and organic material. Many cities have established composting programs as part of their waste management plans. Due to the closure of the Keele Valley Landfill site, the City of Toronto is phasing in a Green Bin program where household organic waste can be processed into compost for farm and other uses, avoiding expensive hauling and dumping in American landfills. Halloween pumpkins are collected in Calgary and composted for use in the city’s parks. Christmas tree mulching is another way to save landfill space. About 15 percent of Regina residents still use natural Christmas trees. The Tinsel Mulch program recycles about 10,000 Christmas trees each year. The City gives the mulch away at no charge to residents for use in flowerbeds and gardens.
Even with composting and recycling, the reality is that some household garbage will end up in the landfill. My husband and I still have to clean our garage, and not everything can be recycled or given away. It would be easy for Regina residents to blame the City for not setting up household hazardous waste collection depots and continue to load up the landfill with all their household waste. Some people may simply be unaware of how much unnecessary garbage goes into the landfill. A possible solution could be to have every resident go to the landfill at least once a year. Each time I go, I am reminded of how much garbage Regina produces. It’s time that we all do something about it.
With information from:
City of Regina: http://www.cityregina.com
City of Regina Solid Waste Management plan:
City of Calgary: http://www.calgary.ca
City of Edmonton: http://www.gov.edmonton.ab.ca/index.html
Teresa is enrolled in the Bachelor of Professional Arts Program, Communications Studies, at Athabasca University and is enjoying returning to school after 18 years. Teresa enjoys writing, union activism and gardening, and lives and works in Regina, Saskatchewan, with her partner Kevin and son Adam.