Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Same Old County Approach

I attended the Waste Advisory Committee meeting in Midhurst on Monday.
It now appears that the motion by the former Warden to form the committee was more about positioning and control rather than really finding new leading edge solutions for waste.
It appears that Stantec have been given a mandate to keep going in the same direction with some lip service that the County is a leader in waste management. Now that is a joke.
In business, we would at times establish a steering committee and they would discuss where we wanted to go in general terms and decide on a general vision. If the vision required outside expertise such as a company or consultant like Stantec, then so be it.
In the case of the County they engaged a consultant, directed them to come up with the vision and then established the Waste Advisory Committee. That is backwards and fundamentally flawed. That doesn't make sense as the vision, by all the documentation, has been established by the consultant Stantec prior to the first meeting which I believe are simply marionettes of the County's bureaucrats. In summary they propose to do the same as they have over the past number of years but try to divert a little more waste. It was stated by councillor Little that Site 41 might even become a transfer station. Did any of these guys at Stantec or at the County Administration work for GM?
The committee have excellent lay people with expertise and passion to really make the County a leader in Waste Management. It is unfortunate that their thoughts and ideas are somewhat dismissed in the dialogue.
I am also surprised that the County did not learn from its attempted control of the information session prior to the Site 41 County Moratorium back in the Spring of 2009. Within ten minutes the moderator (a high paid Lawyer) lost control and the meeting turned into what it should have been, an open dialogue and question period of the panel. The motion passed at the committee on Monday is suggesting an open house with displays and an opportunity to write out your questions or discuss your concerns one on one with the representatives from the consultant. Instead of expressing the flaw with this approach in my words, Kate Harries has said it well. Here is what she said about the proposed open house information sessions.

" Those of us who have experience of other public processes know that the open house format is designed by consultants to benefit consultants.
They control the framing of the discussion.
They can discard any awkward questions as being outside their view of what the discussion is about.
They can keep quiet about any inconvenient information that a member of the public may elicit
They control the record keeping.
They control the selection of comments to be reported from the open house... and
They control the manner of the reporting.
The process is fundamentally undemocratic. We call on the Warden and Council to intervene and ensure that proper public MEETINGS be held, so that people can come together as a community and hear what the County is proposing and what their neighbours have to say. The process needs to be transparent, fair and objective. The Steering Committee needs to be at the centre of the process. The consultants should be there for technical support. Members of the Steering Committee should attend the public meetings so they can hear from the public and answer questions. At each public open house there needs to be an opportunity for questions to be asked and answered in a recorded public forum. The minutes would then become part of the public record for the benefit of the Waste Strategy Steering Committee and the public at large."

This says it all.

If the County is serious about regaining any level of credibility before the next election they must be more transparent. The information sessions for their Waste Management Strategy is a good place to start.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Zero Waste Simcoe

The County of Simcoe has established an advisory committee to work with the County Staff and the consultant Stantec to develop a twenty year plan for its waste management. The initial report by Stantec appears to be more of the same with an uncomfortable slant to landfills as a big part of the solution. For some reason this approach still seems to make logical sense to the senior bureaucrats at the County who are directing the exercise.
I attended a meeting in Midland last week which was a town hall format and chaired by Gordon McKay from Zero Waste Simcoe ( Even though it was an eclectic crowd, many consistent concerns where tabled, which Gordon will take to the next meeting of the waste advisory committee on Monday.
Waste is a growing problem and all of us are part of that problem. We must become part of the solution, if we really want to abandon the use of landfills in the longer term.
I encourage people to get involved with Zero Waste Simcoe and support their efforts and attend the County meetings which are open to the public. We saw what can happen when the citizens put pressure on the politicians to change their stance as happened with Site 41. Let us avoid another insane approach to waste management by putting pressure on the County as they develop the plan. This may help avoid spending 10 to 15 million dollars of our hard earned tax dollars on another debacle like Site 41.
Your presence would be appreciated on Monday January 18th starting at 9:00 a.m in the Council Chambers at the County Administration building in Midhurst. Please be involved and help us as a community come up with a new leading edge and inventive solution rather than follow the path of mediocrity in our long term waste solution.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

EDHS Important Meeting Tonight

The following is a brief overview of the current SERVE status. I encourage all to attend this important meeting tonight.

The Springwater Elmvale Rural Voices for Education Committee (SERVE) and the Township of Springwater have been working together to try to save Elmvale District High School (EDHS) from potential closure.

At the Simcoe County District School Board meeting of May 21, 2009, Mayor Guergis presented his strategy to create the community of Elmvale as a Campus, now referred to as the Community Campus Partnership Strategy (CCPS).

Mayor Guergis has met with the School Board on several occasions regarding the CCPS and has received significant interest in the development of this strategy. The Elmvale Campus has been adopted as the key strategy that SERVE and the municipality are working on to help keep EDHS in Elmvale.

We are now asking for your partnership to support the CCPS.

With 18,000 + residents and growth to 26,000, the community has an ever present need for a secondary school and community use facility. Partnership opportunities surely exist right in our own community. You, your business or organization may be one of them!

A SERVE meeting will be held at the Springwater Township
Administration Centre Nursery Road
Tuesday January 12th, 2010 at 7:00 pm.

Anyone with partnership opportunities or ideas is
invited to attend this public meeting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Waste Management Strategy-My View

I follow with interest the developments at the County of Simcoe as it relates to its Waste Management Strategy.
I am very suspicious in the fact that an outside agency Stantec is to develop a Strategy for Waste Management for the County rather than the senior bureaucrats undertaking their own research and at least providing a vision for the future. Have county staff only directed their thinking to landfills as a solution for waste? The County was certainly not a trend setter or leader when it came to general recycling or green bin collection and simply followed others. In recent years I have become a believer in conspiracy theories as I have observed the antics of our County Elected Officials and staff, especially in its Site 41 saga.
Anyone spending five minutes on Google will most likely provide the same conclusions as Stantec will provide after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for their consulting expertise..
The reality is that waste management is not brain surgery, provided we as the consumer step up to the plate and provide pressure. The most effective waste management is elimination at the source. Just review the packaging that accompanied your Christmas gifts. Some of the heavy plastic shrink-wrap and vacuum seal material required the use of a chain saw to open the enclosed item. None of this material is recyclable or is virtually useless in its secondary use. Dad's and Oreo cookies, which I really love, are in my no purchase zone as they represent a growing problem. I was pleased up to about three years ago that the packaging was entirely recyclable using a paper bag and a corrugated divider. Today it is made from a non-recyclable plasticized bag and a plastic divider. There are many products that have shifted to this type of packaging over recent years. The reason is simple. They want to be able to have the product last longer and have it shipped from greater distances under the guise of efficiency. These changes add to the green house gas problem rather than reduce it. The problem is at the source and unless we focus on elimination, we will never contain the growing waste epidemic. Zero Waste Simcoe get this and hopefully the ears of the County are listening. Unfortunately it will take our efforts lobbying the government to impose regulations on the producers. Yes we may have to pay a few pennies more, but is it not worth it? This Christmas I received a remote controlled helicopter that was made in China but to EU specifications. Aside from two small plastic bags containing small parts, all the packaging was recyclable corrugated. If you read the waste management plans for Europe, because of lack of space for landfills, they are much more serious about addressing the problem than we in the West. And yes like us, they are accepting it slowly.
The second approach to waste reduction and more preferable than recycling is reuse. We finally have recognized the major problem we created at land fills and recycling with that little toxic disposable water bottle. Why don't we simply eliminate them. Until about ten years ago they didn't exist. Yes, we created a billion dollar industry compounded by scares like the Walkerton tragedy, no longer trusting our community water supplies. The small and large plastic bottles of water were deemed the answer. Years ago, most products like jams and peanut butter came in glass jars that everyone reused for canning and storage. What was wrong with that? I can recall when I was President of a company in the 80's and the awareness of the growing volume of landfill waste became a prime concern, we as a company wanted to do our part. The first step was the elimination of styrofoam packaging from supplies shipped to us. We shifted from the use of styrofoam popcorn packing to recycled paper based material. We asked our suppliers to eliminate their brands and logos from their packaging, so we could reuse the boxes for our shipments. Aside from reducing the amount of recycling and waste we saved money. We chose Barrie's Moore Packaging for our corrugated supplies as they were a leader in recycling corrugated eliminating all of our landfill destined corrugated material. We had one major supplier redesign the shipping containers for a high volume raw material we purchased, so that it could be returned and reused. Based on a longer term agreement they agreed. As a result, their market share increased when some of our competition realized we were developing a competitive edge by emphasizing waste reduction in our business philosophy. That was well over twenty years ago.
The next choice of course is recycling. Too many think this is the answer to the world's waste problems. It should be a small part of the solution. The unfortunate thing is that many plastics become unstable in their reuse and are used for various products that may have been made from a more environmentally friendly longer lasting material originally. I think of the two garden hose reel holders I bought in the last 10 years. They were manufactured from recycled material but failed within a couple of years after sunny summers and cold winters. Previously, most holders were made from steel a much more environmentally friendly product. They virtually lasted forever. Some of the recycling we do may in fact be more detrimental to the environment we profess to be protecting. It is part of the bandaid solution.
I don't know enough about composting except for the large pile we have down by our garden which provides us with very rich and usefully garden material each Spring. I think more emphasis needs directed to home composting combined with the balance of green collection. Unfortunately some people no longer use their backyard composter and simply dump all their food waste into the green bin on collection day. I am not sure that is a step forward.
To forever eliminate the possibilities of another Site 41 fiasco, we need to do our part. It will cost us time and money, but it will be all worth it. The priorities for waste reduction in order of importance must be established; Elimination, Reuse, Recycle, Compost and then less preferable Incineration and then as a last resort Landfills.
I urge people to support the efforts of Zero Waste Simcoe. They have the right idea but we as the residents must fully support their efforts if we truly want to reduce the environmental footprint that each of us leave everyday as we climb into our high powered sports sedans, SUV's and pick up our morning coffee at Tim Horton's Drive-Thru in a disposable cup.
The County may lack vision and try to pawn off their responsibility to a third party like Stantec, but in the end we are all responsible for the mess we are in.
For more information on what the County is doing go to this link and view both the Stephen Ogden and Gord McKay clips on Youtube.