BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
DURHAM: Durham's 'legacy landfills' throughout the Region's rural communities could be mined for recyclable materials and to reclaim the land for other future uses, said Works Commissioner Cliff Curtis, during a recent discussion of the Region's 2013 Solid Waste Management Servicing and Financing Study.
The document, presented and approved by the Region's Works committee on Jan. 10, detailed a number of items to be considered for the department's 2013 budget, as well as projects to be taken on by the department over the next five years.
The study went to Regional Council for approval on Jan. 23.
Those items include ongoing remediation projects at former landfill sites in both Oshawa and Brock Township, estimated to ring in at approximately $1.5 million and $4.2 million respectively over the coming year.
Discussion of the study quickly turned to proposed mining and reclamation of Durham's 'legacy landfills' - mostly those sites in Durham's rural communities that were assumed by the Region when it was incorporated in 1974 - to recover recyclable materials such as metals and prepare those former landfills for future use. The report outlined the project costs associated with reclaiming the Blackstock site as approximately $750,000. The report states that any waste materials would then be sent to the Durham-York incinerator in Clarington, and the former landfill hopefully returned to 'its original designation as part of the Greenbelt Natural Heritage System as defined by the Region's Official Plan.'
Reclamation of the property could also eliminate the need for the establishment of additional buffer lands around the defunct landfill, earmarked for 2015 at an estimated cost of $500,000.
Increased buffer zones have also been proposed at the same cost for the Scugog and Scott landfill sites, the latter of which has also been identified in the report as a potential candidate for future mining and reclamation.
"The intent is not to mine every legacy landfill, mainly those in rural areas," said Mr. Curtis. "Landfills are a perpetual responsibility and are generally bad news."
The report touched on a number of other issues pertaining to Durham's waste management program, including potential increases to the Region's waste diversion rate through the acceptance of additional plastics and porcelain into the recycling stream. Replying to a question from Scugog Regional Councillor Bobbie Drew regarding any potential increase to the diversion rate through these programs, Works staff said that such initiatives contributed only 0.1 per cent to Durham's diversion rate in 2012, which currently sits at approximately 53 per cent. The Region is aiming for a diversion rate of 70 per cent in the coming years.
Safety and dumping issues were also raised during the meeting.
Oshawa Mayor John Henry said that although the Region's battery recycling pilot program was by and large a success - even landing Durham a Guinness World Record for most batteries collected in a single 24-hour period - residents need to be advised of the potential hazards associated with storing nine-volt batteries, which can short out and possibly ignite when in contact with other metal objects. Mr. Curtis said that the public will be notified of the matter in conjunction with the next battery pick-up.
Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster raised a matter of a different kind - the dumping of waste at Durham's thrift stores and clothing donation boxes. While the Clarington mayor said that other municipalities have offered financial incentives like tax credits to charities for collection of unusable items, Mr. Curtis said that "there is no room in the budget" to initiate such a program, adding that it's more "a matter of public education.
"People use those facilities like transfer stations," said the Works commissioner. "Most of that (unusable) material should be going to the dump."
Mr. Curtis went on to explain that the business of recycling is changing with less paper entering blue boxes and items like packaging more in demand by processors paid to take recyclable materials from municipalities.
"Recycling is an expensive proposition but its the right thing to do," added Mr. Curtis.
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