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LETTER: Newfoundland and Labrador’s mini-boondoggle

The Town of Deer Lake is looking to delay the start of the Sort-It Western waste management program that is scheduled to get underway next month.
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Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may not realize it, but they have been suffering through a mini-boondoggle. While it may be overshadowed by the enormity of the Muskrat Falls debacle, waste management in this province has been atrocious on its own.

Some may roll their eyes at this description, but it is entirely appropriate.

The Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy has been an abject failure, driving up the cost of waste and recycling, with no clear indication of an environmental benefit.

Despite a strategy being in place, there is no coherence on how waste collection and disposal is actually managed in the province. Regional service boards have been given the freedom to introduce waste regulations as they see fit, with very little oversight on how money is spent and delays in meeting the timelines for the strategy’s goals.

The primary focus of the strategy was on closing dumps and recycling, while the costs were secondary. That is until the Office of the Auditor General released an audit of the strategy in 2014. It found the capital cost would be $316 million to fully implement, 58 per cent more than the original $200-million budget.

As of March 2019, the capital cost was $203 million and the strategy is still not yet fully implemented. We don’t know how garbage will be dealt with in western Newfoundland, where tipping fees are $164 per tonne, or what a new composting program will look like.

From the small-business perspective, the implementation of the strategy has been appalling.

It is safe to assume it will be costly.

From the small-business perspective, the implementation of the strategy has been appalling. Business owners in many parts of the province have seen their waste costs quadruple once regional waste facilities are opened near them. Now, business owners in western Newfoundland are going through this as the changes are rolled out there.

Consultation with business owners on how the strategy would be implemented has been virtually non-existent. Which is discouraging because business owners have to make changes in their businesses and work with waste hauling contractors to accommodate new regulations, as well as educate and encourage customers to separate waste. It is not hyperbole to say the waste regulations have been rammed down the throats of business owners.

There is no question past waste-management practice in this province did not protect the environment.

But it is hard to argue the current practice is any better.

Transporting garbage to centralized landfills; continued, perhaps even more, illegal dumping; and recyclables finding their way into the landfill. This calls into doubt the strategy’s environmental friendliness.

This is why the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is asking for greater consultation with business owners on waste regulations and annual auditing and public reporting on the strategy.

The strategy is finally going through a long-overdue review, and there’s clearly lots of trash to sort through.

Vaughn Hammond,
Director of Provincial Affairs, Newfoundland and Labrador,
St. John’s


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