Waste management needs willing participants

Cory Hurley
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CORNER BROOK  Education will be the key to the future of solid waste management in the western region, says Don Downer.

Unfortunately, not everybody will be willing participants in that learning process, let alone the advancements in various aspects of waste collection.

The independent chair of the Western Regional Waste Management Committee gave members of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook an update on the progress and plans throughout the region Thursday. Like many of his presentations in recent years, he was bombarded by questions, concerns, and even some criticism by the various representatives of the business and volunteer community.

Some of the criticism revolved around the estimated cost of $200 per household per year for homeowners, regardless of where they live or how much waste they dispose of. There was also concern over costs of tipping fees, and how people are paying the same price regardless of the size of the loads.

Downer said he is quite familiar with these lines of questions and concerns.

“I am probably talking to people who are well informed anyway when I talk to Rotary or public groups like this,” he said. “There is much of the education component that we haven’t been able to even touch the surface of.”

Downer said he would like to have something offered in the school system to get youth involved in an even bigger way than they are now. He also said providing information through the media in newsprint and public airways is also vital to reaching the entire population.

“There is a group, I suspect we will never reach, but it doesn’t mean you (don’t) continue trying,” he said. “If you get people fixed in their ways, after a lifetime of doing it one way, you are going to have great difficulty convincing them otherwise.”

It is part of some people’s nature to question whether it is fair for everybody to be paying the same fees, but Downer said it is also important to not deter people from recycling and composting initiatives. People also must have an affordable and suitable means of ridding themselves of large waste items such as refrigerators, couches, and mattress. History has proven, the alternative is illegal dumping in backroads throughout the province.

Enforcement is another component that Downer said is key to compliance.

The chair said issues such as local service districts not wanting to pay their fair share and charging cabin owners for waste collection has been arising.

Work is progressing toward the implementation of all six western regional transfer stations. There will also be three public drop-off stations established. The waste will be shipped to the Norris Arm site in central Newfoundland.

The closure of landfill sites are continuing throughout the region, with work on the closure of 10 of the remaining 20 sites still in operation underway. Downer expects another five or six to be closed this year.

There are also still four teepee incinerators — Burgeo, Ramea, Francois and Grey River — left operating in the area. Despite the provincial waste management strategy setting 2008 as the closure deadline for these incinerators, these four are still only slated for closure.

The regional committee is also set to become the Western Regional Service Board. He said the 11 members have been elected, and they are awaiting the appointments by the provincial government.

View the video of Downer’s presentation to Rotary.

Organizations: Western Regional Waste Management Committee, Rotary Club of Corner Brook, Western Regional Service Board

Geographic location: Norris Arm, Newfoundland, Grey River

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