Dr. Paul Connett’s message to industry is, “If we cannot recycle, reuse or compost it – don’t make it!” The author of the “Zero Waste Solution” addressed an environmentally-friendly crowd at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre Saturday April 11th. The event was hosted by the Brant Zero Waste Committee and the Scotland Oakland Wellbeing Team.
In Dr. Connett’s opinion, the current global waste management crisis is the result of linear, profit-driven and short-term thinking. The straight path from extraction to production to consumption and discarded materials that was kicked into high gear following World War II is an increasingly serious problem that needs to fixed.
However, the Executive Director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project has little faith in government action. Instead, he believes that citizen-led initiatives and collective habit changes are the key to sustainability for future generations.
“The waste problem can be solved with better recycling, composting and education” applied with healthy doses of common sense, community, creativity, children and communication to create a circular system for solids.
Bill Warner of AW First Nations Recycling agrees. The Six Nations entrepreneur has diverted more than 600,000 lbs of material from the community landfill in the past 18 months in partnership with Emterra Waste Management.
He wishes everyone at the March 19th Community Hall presentation of the RDWI report on the Kearns incinerator could have heard Connett’s ten-step plan for untrashing the planet, one community at a time.
“It’s doable for us”, says the former iron worker who currently collects recyclable material from about 20% of Six Nations through a combination of door-to-door pick-up and drop-off at the landfill site on Fourth Line.
With a team of three that includes his wife, Elaine, and his brother-in-law and an average of 50 participants per day, the operation is already breaking even. But he foresees a day when permanent landfills and incinerators will be a thing the past and new jobs will come to communities like his that involve the Four Rs – Reduction, Redesign, Reuse/Composting and Recycling.
The example of Nova Scotia suggests that Warner may be on the leading edge of a significant economic development trend moving towards Ontario. Ironically, the birthplace of the Kearns incinerator unit created 1,000 sustainable collection and treatment jobs and another 2,000 jobs in industries using those recycled materials by saying “No” to burning and burying its municipal waste.
But for the traditional caretakers of the land, it’s not just about employment and money. Many local residents still remember the dark smoke and acrid smells emanating from the heart of the community last year. Despite a $60,000 study claiming the unit posed no “official” health risks, they worry about effects on the children and the environment.
“We’re supposed to be taking care of the Earth. But sometimes I think we’re the worst,” laments the father of two who was instrumental in getting the defective incinerator shut down.
Working with the support of both Elected and Confederacy Councils, Warner hopes to achieve 70-80% waste diversion at Six Nations. His strategy involves getting the Zero Waste message home through engagement with youth in schools, an educational campaign of workshops, “teach-ins” and community events, traditional radio and print media, as well as out into Cyberspace through Facebook and YouTube.
Getting into the habit of proper source separation when it comes to disposing of waste items at home is one way residents can contribute to the effort. Another way is changing consumer habits so as to avoid unnecessary packaging, especially for food.
Now that spring is finally here, readers can start planting their own Healthy Roots. Growing traditional foods locally is the original Zero Waste Solution for Turtle Island that feeds the body, mind, soul and spirit. Plus it’s a great way to reconnect with Mother Earth, the ancestors and each other.
Those wanting to connect with “Zero Hero” Bill Warner may do so by cell phone at 289-808-2685 or on-line at the AW First Nations Recycling FaceBook page.
Cutline: Dr. Paul Connett, author of the book “The Zero Waste Solution” speaks at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre on Saturday.