Leader of the New Brunswick Greens, David Coon, has urged the province to improve their waste management after the Fredericton Solid Waste Commission applied to the Department of Environment for approval to build an extra 29 metres in height onto their landfill. This request comes after years of piecemeal recycling regulation across the province that saw many reusable products such as organics, plastics and paper sent to the same landfill, never to be repurposed, and adding to the massive heap of garbage.

The 59 metres of garbage already in place at the Fredericton Landfill, plus the extra 29 metres proposed would mean the new landfill would hold 88 metres of garbage in total.  Subtracting the 30-metre base elevation, we can determine that the new landfill would stand about 58 metres in the air, or about the same height as the steeple of Fredericton’s Christ Church Cathedral.

The Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Fredericton reaches 60 metres at its highest peak.  Merely 2 metres more than the proposed garbage mountain. Image via @livinglifeatlantic

During a Live Zoom Watch Party, New Brunswick Green Party MLA’s Kevin Areseneau, David Coon, and Megan Mitton delivered their thoughts on waste management in their province, and the advantages of adapting a more ‘circular’ economy.

The use of organic waste has served a growing purpose in cities across Canada and the world. 

In Ontario, for example, organic waste in green bins is collected, sent to anaerobic digesters, and then repurposed as natural fertilizer for public parks and gardens. 

Organic waste collection has also been growing across the European Union. Many EU Member States have taken measures, such as banning organic waste from landfills, and repurposing it as biofuel, fertilizer, or natural gas.

In 2017, EU Member States, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Sweden, all managed to reach the EU’s 2035 goal of target landfilling for municipal waste, which was under 10%.

Coon states that “In Montreal, they’re putting (organic waste) into big composters, to be used as renewable natural gas…In Halifax, they simply banned it from their landfills, and the municipalities then come up with a plan to address the waste.”

Coon goes on to express the need for what he calls a ‘circular economy’: “The idea that waste is not to be thrown away, it’s actually raw material to be used”.  Coon compares this raw material to nature; once a piece of flora or fauna has died, it continues to serve a purpose to the living environment, and the cycle continues.

“We need to think about waste entirely differently… Rather than burying it, we need to be utilising it”.

David Coon, Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick

Currently, New Brunswick does not offer recycling to all citizens across the province.  Green Party MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, Megan Mitton, stated during the livestream, “Waste is managed differently in different parts of the province.” Referring to her riding, Mitton goes on to state, “some waste is being properly composted and recycled, unless you have an apartment with more than four people, or a business, in which case organic waste and recyclables are sent to landfills”.

Mitton continues that this issue is one which many New Brunswickers are concerned with, stating that she’s heard that some choose keep their recyclables in their car until they are able to drop it off in an acceptable location.  Mitton asserts, “We need a better solution than this.”

Green MLA for Kent North, Kevin Arseneau, stated that in terms of waste management, New Brunswick needs to adopt an “island mentality”.  Arseneau explains how, for example, the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, have a very meticulous system of sorting recyclables from compost and waste, resulting in each Magdalen Islander producing less waste per year than other Quebecers.

The Magdalen Islands have been pioneers of waste management in Quebec since the 1990s. Image via @plantours_kreuzfahrten

Arseneau stated, “We need to think like an Island when it comes to space… we’re living on earth, and there’s limited space.”

Coon finishes by expressing that it is up to the Government of New Brunswick to “get creative” in this area. By re-injecting themselves into the area of waste management from a greener, ‘circular’ perspective, the New Brunswick Government could halt the construction of a would-be mountain of garbage that would surpass nearly all buildings in Fredericton in size.

Joshua Allan

Joshua Allan is from Beamsville, Ontario and graduated from Bishop's University in June 2020, having studied Foreign Languages and Politics. His political activity in his community includes advocating for environmental rights in the Fridays for Future march in Sherbrooke, QC, in October 2019. His interests include Canadian and international politics, environmental politics, and Indigenous rights.

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