Bruce Symons may be a St. Marys Town Councillor, it's his second term, but for a very long time he was science teacher at the local high school, and it can be pretty tough to get a teacher out of the classroom . . . even a retired teacher.
His particular interest is the environment and he'd like to make sure all citizens are educated on the issue of waste reduction in St. Marys. That includes where that town stands now . . . and what the future holds.
Symons encourages citizens to attend next week's town hall meeting on Waste Reduction, (Tuesday, March 29, 7 p.m.) but to come to that meeting with the understanding of some key aspects . . . which he raised with the Journal in an interview last week.
"The public must deal with the facts, that show we are filling our landfill site at an alarming rate," Symons said.
He says the landfill, located off Water Street just south of town, is filling 40 per cent more quickly than anticipated. It's expected that instead of lasting 50 years, as was originally anticipated, it will be full in 28 years . . . or by 2015. That will mean purchase of more land and the excruciating government process of getting a new landfill site approved and prepared to accept waste.
"In order to change this, citizens of the municipality must accept environmental responsibility," he says.
The second key issue, the councillor says, is that the Ministry of the Environment has made diversion of waste a priority. The MOE will soon announce that 60 per cent of waste must be diverted from landfills by 2008.
Symons says Ontario's Minister of the Environment Leona Dombrowsky spoke at a recent municipal conference, stating she feels the 60 per cent diversion rate for waste is attainable across the province. Her own hometown of Tweed has already reached that level, Dombrowsky was proud to note at the conference.
Currently, St. Marys' diversion rate is about 45 per cent.
A key way to encourage citizens to reduce waste -- and an effective one -- is the implementation of a bag tag program, (most surrounding municipalities already have them) and that will be a main topic at next week's meeting.
In 2001, the last town council rejected bag tags, opting instead to purchase its own garbage truck (to reduce costs and to more easily create new programs like the yard waste pickup) and imposed a three-bag limit on residential garbage.
However, Symons says those measures appear to have had little effect on diversion of waste, in fact a three-year average since then shows an increase from the two to three years previous.
"It appears St. Marys residents are recycling at a high rate through the blue box program, yet we still appear to be producing an alarming amount of garbage," he says.
In explanation, Symons says St. Marys "out-recycles" Stratford (220 kg. per house to 180 kg. per house), yet we still produce more garbage (830 kg. per house to 350 kg. per house).
Stratford has a pay per bag program, and a representative from the Festival City will be on hand at next week's meeting to explain its program.
Citizens can reduce waste in St. Marys by a variety of ways (see accompanying story). But some, including Symons, believe a bag tag program is the most effective way, simply because the more waste generated the more costly to the homeowner. One of the options council may consider is allowing one free bag, and having residents buy tags for any additional bags.
For Symons, however, it's not an issue of money, or the town making more money, it's about preservation of, and care for, our environment.
"I challenge the citizens of St. Marys to prove that we can work toward diverting 60 per cent of waste from our landfill site," Symons says.
"We simply have to realize that we must make a conscious effort towards preserving our landfill site for our grandchildren.
"Are you prepared to step up to the plate and do your part?" he asks of each citizen.
St. Marys Town Councillor Bruce Symons, a committed environmentalist, has four key points that he hopes citizens will consider to help reduce waste and extend the life of the town's landfill site, which is filling far too quickly. He brought some props to the Journal last week to help illustrate those points: 1) A container for kitchen compost items to encourage composting (he's hoping they'll be available at town hall within the next couple of weeks), 2) a refillable, insulated cup he's hoping more people will consider using (to reduce non-recyclable paper coffee cups), 3) a sample of a calendar including waste reduction tips that Public Works hopes to have available soon, and 4) himself . . . demonstrating the "will" to reduce waste. He said citizens have a "responsibility" to care for the environment.