Composting plan elicits mixed reactions

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Added: Thu, 10/25/2018 - 12:23pm
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Mo Laidlaw

MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – On September 17, Pontiac, Chelsea and Cantley launched the “We Collect Together” composting program, which includes a campaign to inform, accompany and equip residents in making composting a new habit over the next few months before door-to-door collection is implemented in Pontiac in June 2019.
The announcement produced a flurry of comments on social media suggesting Pontiac Mayor Joanne Labadie had single-handedly made the decision to opt for collection rather than home composting, as well as concerns regarding the cost, pollution caused by collection trucks, lack of public consultation, and why those who home compost will be forced to pay for collection.
However, some residents are in favour of the move, like Eric Vezina. “We are a family of eight. If we currently had compost pickup, we'd barely have any garbage. How can this be negative?” he said. 
Only 16 households accepted home-composters offered by the municipality in 2008. In 2017, 230 residents responded to a survey, which found most preferred home composting over door-to door pickup, but those in densely populated areas were more open to collection. In February 2018, a majority of Pontiac councillors voted to implement door-to-door collection because home composting cannot deal with meat, diapers and pet wastes, and few people compost in the winter.
The leader of the project is the MRC-des-Collines’ sustainable development manager, Patrick Laliberté, a waste management specialist, who will meet with Pontiac council before the details are finalized. However, the mayors of each municipality hold the final say on which route to take. Labadie has also
invited Kevin Brady, a resident and environmental expert, to meet with her and Laliberté.
According to Brady, while door-to-door pick-up makes sense in urban environments, in rural municipalities with low population density and a large agricultural base, other options make more sense. “While collection may have merit in some parts of the community, in others it doesn't. Does sending a truck up a long road to any rural house that already composts make sense? Does making people, who already compost, pay for a collection system for those who don’t, make sense?” he said, noting that objective and credible information are needed to have an informed discussion, make the best decision for the community, and meet provincial targets.
“We must step back from the collection option, get the costs and benefit data
(environmental and economic), and then make a decision,” he added. 
Composting saves money
Labadie emphasized that council has a duty to protect the environment while using tax dollars wisely. The fee for dumping garbage at Lachute (excluding transport) is $135 per ton, while that for organic material is $80. About 40% of Pontiac’s current garbage is compostable, according to MRC measurements. Diverting 20% of organic material from garbage will save the municipality about $20,000 a year (the target is to remove 60%), she said. Costs and potential savings are presently under
study, along with other details like frequency of pick-up. 
According to Labadie, in addition to reduced disposal fees for compost, there are provincial subsidies for reducing garbage, which reduce municipal taxes. Composting, even with collection, saves money, she stressed, and is environmentally favourable, since methane created when organic material is left in garbage is a far more active greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide produced by the collection vehicles. She reminisced that many residents opposed the blue recycling bins initially, but that several tons per week of recyclable material is now diverted from the landfill.
The MRC-des-Collines is planning to send compost to Val-des-Monts before it is sent to Portage-du-Fort. Pontiac has suggested sending its compost directly to Portage.
Opting out?
Councillor Maxsom voted against February's resolution to opt for door-to-door collection. According to Labadie, if 100% of residents in North Onslow (most of Maxsom's ward) choose to opt out of pick-up, the area could possibly opt out, but 100% diversion would be required, including meat, cat litter, dog wastes, soiled cardboard and diapers. Apparently, no rural municipality has achieved better than 60% diversion with backyard composting.
For densely settled areas like the village of Quyon and the Luskville beaches, community composting has been suggested.