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2007 04 06
Trashing Your Garbage

You may have heard this week that in addition to raising your taxes beyond the level of inflation the City of Toronto is considering charging you to take away your trash. Welcome to the megacity.

If the two seem connected then you're probably like most home owners. Let's think a bit: the cost of water is going up, taxes are going up, and garbage fees might begin. Ouch. That is a lot of extra financial burden on an already highly taxed population. Doesn't the city argue that other levels of government are already taxing us for many of the services the city must now re-tax us for to cover the shortfalls when those governments don't transfer the money back to our community?

All of this taxing and re-taxing gets complicated. That's why the city's announcement that it may (you just know that it will) begin to charge for garbage removal makes for really bad timing. Why? It is simple. If we really do want the cleaner environment that pollsters say we do then paying for garbage removal will help. It is just too bad the idea seems more like another cash grab by confused governments than a smart way to reduce our environmental impact.

For those readers who are complaining that this new fee is too much then I'd recommend you get Elizabeth Royte's book, Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail Of Trash. Royte is a skilled writer and her voyage of garbage self-discovery (she asks "where does my garbage go?") makes for a surprisingly engrossing read.

I'll reveal Royte's punchline for those of you who are working 16 hours a day to pay off your increased taxes. All garbage is bad garbage. There is no effective way to rid the environment of our trash. The only real answer is to not make it in the first place.

Do you think trucking our garbage 200 kilometers south and burying it is a good idea? Well, sorry, it isn't for a plethora of reasons from the increased carbon emissions those garbage trucks produce to the inevitable poisoning of the local water table by garbage leachates (when you're dealing with millions of tonnes of trash all barriers designed to retain toxins fail in time).

Do you think incineration is the answer? Well, wrong again. Even if all those nasty carcinogens our garbage produces are magically vapourized what happens to all the other gases and all that heat energy? Global warming anyone?

But wait, how about using our organic waste as fertilizer? Turns out that this is no panacea either. It is not recommended to use biosolids (a nice clean word for our crap) as a fertilizer for edible produce.

No, the answer is don't produce as much garbage as we do now. Charging for the disposal of trash will make people aware of just how much waste they produce. That, in turn, will work its way up the consumption food chain to suppliers who will have to pay for the trash they produce while making the stuff that becomes our trash.

The timing of Toronto's pay-as-you-dump announcement is just plain bad, but let's not discount it as a money-grab just yet. This is one time when government's hand in your pocket might just be good for you.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 04/06 at 10:48 AM

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