Ahead to the Past to Start Whittling Down Toronto's Garbage

Last night Rick Mercer took his viewers to Edmonton to visit the garbage. (He probably did that to show Toronto what idiots they are. In a nice, subtle way.) I've blogged about Edmonton's garbage before and was impressed with what they were doing back then, so much saner than Toronto. But when I heard the refuse collector say to Mercer that bags are cleaner than bins (they switched wayyy back in 1999) I wanted to kiss the guy. Sanity! They probably understand too that sidewalks are for people not garbage.

With each city having its own ideas of what is recyclable and with Toronto changing its mind every time one turns around, it's hard to know what is recyclable and what is garbage and what is compost. As Christopher Hume wrote back on November 3rd: "The problems is that much of the recyclable waste doesn't make it to the curb..."

Toronto thinks the solution is to have garbage police, bins, and bans. But the real solution partly lies in the past. Years ago, I remember much less garbage going out our door, much less sitting on the curb, such that except for the odd house or two emptying its basement out, I didn't have to walk on the road on garbage day. Today, manufacturers use layers and layers of packaging. (I recently opened a plastic bag of rice cakes, only to be faced with another plastic bag holding them!) Multiple bins, large and small, have increased even more the space garbage now takes up on trash day.

We have become the Emperor who sees green clothes by accepting our transformation into waste transfer stations and paying the city for the privilege; but we would truly be green by encouraging the creation and use of smaller packaging that's biodegradable and then insisting the city sort the garbage as machines can easily be programmed to change sorting parameters and are better at it than humans, especially those who don't care, don't have the time or energy, or can't understand it and never will. And then lastly create energy from what is left after recyclables and compostables are removed instead of stuffing it into the ground.