From time to time, gazing out of the window in the early morning, I see garbage collectors throw my mountain of old newspapers into their truck before dumping the contents of my green bin on top. Whoa!

Isn’t all that stuff supposed to be separated?

I learn from last week’s York Region Committee of the Whole (May 14) that even the most sophisticated waste management systems sometimes struggle to cope. Erin Mahoney, the very impressive Commissioner of Environmental Services, tells Newmarket's John Taylor that some of the contents of the green bins go to landfill because of limited processing capacity. Oh dear!

The 2014 Annual Diversion Report tells us non-recyclable garbage accounts for 29% of the stuff put out at the curbside but, at the processing plant, this rises to 36% where the wheat is, as it were, sorted from the chaff.

For whatever reason, we often get it wrong and put garbage in with recyclables.

An energized John Taylor asks a series of probing questions while a few feet away, Tony Van Bynen gently snoozes. (Another entire meeting goes by without him opening his mouth once.) I learn that, last year, the City of Markham generated 282 kg of waste per capita compared with 352kg here in Newmarket and 385 kg in Georgina. Why the big difference asks Taylor?

Yard waste may be one explanation but, clearly, more work needs to be done to explain different behaviours across the Region. Hmmm.

Food for Thought

Taylor swallows hard and is now asking about the contents of the average green bin. 20% is diapers and pet waste. But an astonishing 34% is “avoidable” food waste. Uneaten leftovers and stuff past its sell-by-date.

Across Canada, a staggering $27 billion of food is thrown out every year.

Despite our best endeavours, material that should be recycled ends up in landfill. One of my environmentally conscious spies here in Town tells me a recent flyer had piqued his interest, informing him that newspaper plastic bags are no longer accepted as recycling.

He makes some enquiries and is informed by an impeccable source that

“not only are plastic newspaper bags now directed to the garbage (landfill) but all other forms of plastic packaging (water softener salt bags, fertilizer bags, produce bags, 15L single use water jugs and on and on. The gist of it appears to be that we recycle biodegradable materials that if put in the landfill would break down but we do not recycle tons of plastic that will be there a thousand years from now. Apparently they muck up the machines that handle recycling. Perhaps a few jobs as hand sorters would be in order to add to the dismal few hundred jobs created last year by Newmarket?”

The sting in the tail is, of course, gratuitous but I understand where he is coming from.

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