A Green Assessment of the Manitoban Government Review of Waste Diversion and Recycling; With Robert Brown

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The Province of Manitoba, Canada has recently launched a review process of the provinces waste management and recycling programs. This review process, says Sarah Guillemard the Provinces Minister of Conservation and Climate in the Provinces official news release, has the objective of ”improving programming and [to] reduce the amount of waste heading to landfills”1.

The review underway takes the form of a 4 step process beginning with a public survey released at the end of January and concluding the 10th of February. The review ends with a report outlining the next key step to help reduce waste directed towards landfills and by extension, limiting our Green House Gas emissions produced from such practices.

We have taken this opportunity to briefly address this review as well as contrast its practicality with the provinces Green party policy surrounding the views of waste management.

We are joined here with Robert Brown, the Manitoba Green Party’s Westman Representative as well as the party’s Shadow Cabinet Advocate for the Environment, to discuss this development.

Robert Brown, Westman Representative of the Green Party of Manitoba Council; Shadow Cabinet advocate for the Environment.

Full Interview Transcript:

I’m joined here today by Robert Brown, the Westman representative of the Green Party of Manitoba Council, as well as the Shadow Cabinet advocate for the environment. Hi, Robert.

Robert Brown:  Hi, thanks for having me. 

Thanks for joining on here and bearing with me here at the beginning. So, what I want to talk about briefly here today, was just a recent Manitoba review, that’s going on for the waste and recycling. In Manitoba, and it’s a, it’s a four step review, in which the government will be assessing some of the procedures and legislation around are recycling programs, I just want to get your opinion here on a few things here and before I ask my first question I just wanted to preface it with a quick little throwback to our main Manitoba Green Plan.

The Manitoba green plan here back in 2017, it was, I guess more of a discussion paper at that time, that identifies 5% greenhouse gas emissions, coming from solid waste so 5%, or one megaton at the time of greenhouse gas emissions are coming from our landfills, or organics that live in our landfills so the organics approximately 40% of the organics in our landfills are coming from residential sources while 30% was coming from industrial. Now, at the time, our plan outlined a few different solutions as well as identifying these issues and the solutions that the, plant came up with, that our government came up with, we’re starting a landfill disposal ban on organics, promoting organic best practices, enhancing our methane capture, as well as landfill disposal bans on materials currently managed by product stewardship organizations. So product stewardship organizations is just outside of the government, any organization that would take our electronics or our batteries, outside of the landfill.

In comparison to what we’re seeing now which largely we’re not seeing a lot of what was said there. What would you say, what are some of the Green Party’s objectives surrounding waste disposal and how do they differ from what we’re seeing currently?

Robert Brown:

Yeah, so the Green Party of Manitoba our policy is to support. Zero Waste by 2025, which, to some people might seem like a really short time to do it in but we actually outline a number of ways of doing that. Some of them are things like implementing a system of high environmental handling fees and adequate rebates for consumers, especially on products and packaging for returning recyclable items so that could be anything from a battery to a cell phone to a, you know, a tin can.

You know, other things, requiring you know through legislation or other means. Implementation of incentives and disincentives for residential and commercial sectors to minimize the waste disposal so incentivizing people to come up with their own programs or industries to come up with their own programs to reduce their waste. And then of course you now look after the waste they do produce in a little bit more of a responsible manner. The big thing that we would do that’s a little different is, we would really hold producers of waste accountable, and ensure that the waste they’re producing is managed in a environmentally responsible fashion, because our goal really is waste reduction so if you’re producing waste, you need to have a plan to deal with it. And right now, a lot of manufacturers. And we see this all the time, especially with consumer products.

You know packaged things in ways that are just incredibly wasteful. You know a whole lot of plastic is used, other products are used that just can’t really be handled by our current recycling. And so if we can through legislation and through incentives get them to change those habits, then hopefully we can reduce the waste that we’re producing. To begin with, that’s going into our landfills.

So currently we have the public survey part of the review going on currently that goes up until the 10th of February, I believe. I’ve done the review myself. It takes about 10-15 minutes and yeah it’s about 10 minutes and to me, it looks largely like one, is just trying to attain what the public’s knowledge is on our current recycling options and our waste options as well as kind of laying out how we are practicing it thus far and two, what we’re doing with our waste. Having said that, this in the review process. This is the only stage of public involvement that they have.

Do you believe that this amount of Public Engagement is sufficient to surmount any meaningful changes in the programs or legislation in the near future, which is the second stage of the review is assessing the program’s legislation?

Robert Brown: 

Yeah, I’m glad that you took the survey I think it’s important that Manitobans do take the survey, and I think that any level of Public Engagement is a good thing. I think it needs to go a lot further than just a survey put up on on their website.

Do I think that the survey is sufficient. No, like you said, the survey really kind of focused on public knowledge of current recycling programs, and maybe to some degree gauging their use of certain areas of the program. But it’s really only useful I think the data that they’re collecting and, you know, possibly creating a, you know, a new, new media campaign to encourage recycling but beyond that. I don’t think that any of the questions. Focus on anything that would help them decide how to improve or change our current waste management program. So do I think it’s going to amount to any meaningful change.

”Unfortunately I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to see any major changes…”

Robert Brown

…or at least any changes that are made at a large enough scale to make any significant difference.

Sure, Yeah.

So looking at the review process. Do you have any ideas like possibly what this review process could be missing and what it needs to maybe take that extra step?

Robert Brown:

 Well, from the information that I’ve seen so far, I’ve really seen a lack of engagement with environmental experts and waste management experts. There’s a lot of places around the world that are doing some really innovative things in regard to waste management. So, consulting with, with people from other regions and seeing what they’re doing, I think would be a great step. The other thing that I would like to see it focus more on is identifying sources of our waste know even in my own home it’s really really obvious that packaging on food, and consumer goods packaging makes up the bulk of my own household waste. And a lot of it is just absolutely unnecessary. There’s no need to have something in a box, and then in a bag, and then in another box and then in another bag like it’s especially when these are single use plastics, they are not in any way recyclable with our, our current programming. And, you know, the government just seems to be missing the point that if you’re going to manage waste. You need to understand what waste, there is and where that is coming from. And they really need to apply more pressure than on the producers of these products on the manufacturers to take, take the initiative and be less wasteful in their production methods.

Leading to that, it looks like in this four step process of the project timeline, it starts with the public survey and moves on to the review of the programs and legislations, followed by a stakeholder engagement and I can’t be certain who would all be included in that stakeholder engagement for sure. And then finally the to analyze it to report on it looking at the key outcomes and where they should go with these next steps here.

So looking at this report on the ‘key actions and next steps’ are in the final stages of the review. If we take into account what they’ve put into their public survey or survey as well as assessing their public legislation whatnot.

Do you think we’ll see any quantitative or tangible actions outlined in this report? I know it’s difficult to throw those out in a report like that but something that actually has potential for quantitative results as opposed to just more or less what we’re seeing already in the main manitoba plan were to just kind of reasserts different issues that we’re having.

Robert Brown:

Yeah. Unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to see at least with the current Conservative government in power I don’t think we’re going to see any major quantitative or really qualitative steps taken. I think the best we’re going to see out of this as maybe some changes to their media campaigns when it comes to things like recycle Manitoba and, and, you know, these things to encourage people to recycle, where we really need to see more replaced on major waste producers. We need to see increasing in tipping fees and our wraps that are used for landfill sites, people and good companies, alternative ways to either reuse their waste material or to recycle it instead of just sending it out to the landfill and I just, unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to see that from, from the current government.

Right, Absolutely. Okay, that’s all the actual questions I have here. Thank you very much for answering.

Yeah. Thank you.

Yes, thank you

  1. https://news.gov.mb.ca/news/index.html?item=50287

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