Is “Zero Waste” the solution to Six Nation’s garbage problem?

OHSWEKEN – Over a dozen people from Six Nations and Brantford gathered this past Saturday to hear from Dr. Connett, a renowned expert on waste management and a campaigner against waste incineration. He was invited to speak by an ad-hoc group of Six Nations residents who have been working to prevent the permanent installation of a waste incinerator on Six Nations.

Dr. Connett’s presentation focused on the content featured in his book The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time. Dr. Connett stated the bottom line is, “Even if you could make incineration safe, you could never make it sensible in the 21st century.” He spoke extensively about the need for our communities to move to a model of waste management where the type of waste that is destined for landfills is diverted – meaning it is recycled or composted – or not produced at all.

He advocates that part of the onus for waste reduction must fall on the shoulders of industry, which insist on producing products that generate waste that cannot be recycled. He also calls on communities to institute mandatory recycling and composting programs, his book provides a case-study of the changes made in San Francisco; although there is a model much closer to home. Over the last decade the City of Toronto has instituted a composting program and expanded its recycling program in order to accept many more types of waste. According to the City of Toronto website, “In 2013, residents living in single-family homes had a diversion rate of 67.5%.”

Even if Six Nations is able to reach the diversion rates seen in the City of Toronto in a short period of time, the question of what to do with the existing waste at the landfill remains. The Two Row Times asked Dr. Connett about this and he admitted that is a difficult challenge to deal with what he calls the “legacy” of past waste management plans. He suggests a “dirty composting operation”, where the existing waste would be sorted and separated, extracting the recyclable material, and the remainder is shredded.

Dr. Connett has offered to return to Six Nations to participate in a debate with Mr. John Kearns about the safety and feasibility of an incinerator in the community.

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