CORNER BROOK — After less than two years on the job, Don Downer has already seen a change in attitudes regarding waste management in the region.
Downer took the reins as chair of the Western Waste Management Committee in March of 2011, at a time when there was criticism of the plan to close regional waste dumping facilities in favour of several larger, more sophistocated facilities in central and eastern parts of the province.
Speaking just after delivering an update on the plans to implement a western waste management plan by 2016 as part of ACAP Humber Arm’s Coastal Matters series of lectures at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University Thursday, Downer said citizens in the region are beginning to see the benefits of such a plan.
“We’re not getting nearly as much opposition and criticism ... even as when I came into this less than two years ago,” Downer said. “I guess I came in at the peak of the criticism. People were saying ‘what’s this all about going to central?’”
Among the positives of shipping waste to a regional site in central rather than building one on the west coast is the carbon footprint will be the same and the plan could save as much as $125 million. With this in mind, Downer called the central option, which will include several sub-regional drop off sites throughout the west coast where as much recyclables as possible are recovered, a “no-brainer.”
The major issue, Downer said, is the vast nature of the region when compared to the already-operational sites in eastern and central Newfoundland.
“Of course the distance is a factor,” he said. “When you have to haul from the southern part of the Codroy Valley ... up to St. George’s where the transfer station will be, that’s a bit of an issue. If you’re on the tip of the Port au Port Peninsula and you are hauling to St. George’s, that’s a bit of an issue.”
During his presentation, Downer showed a diagram of the way in which the eastern facility at Robin Hood Bay works. Rather than simply a landfill, the facility separates the waste in a more efficient manner, allowing such things as metals and methane to be taken out before being put into the landfill.
“We’re not talking holes here, it’s largely taking stuff out that we’re aiming for,” he said. “That’s what the materials recovery facility is all about, that’s why we’re trying to haul the material that’s organic or compostable out. The actual lined landfill is only one portion of what each of these big sites are all about.”
He anticipates the sites in this region to be a combination of those in the other two areas of the province and acknowledge the west coast has some catching up to do.
“We’re going to have the thing up and running by 2016,” he said. “The way in which we collect the materials at the transfer stations and how we put it in waste trucks and the compacting that may or may not occur, all these are details we will have to iron out.”