Tag Archives: Environment

Five cent bag tax resulting in reduced use

Councillor Walker wants proof five cent plastic bag fee reduces use
Grocery chains interim results indicates it has, for me it’s meant no new bags
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 4 for Town Crier.)

Most Torontonians want to do right by the environment.
The city has a policy aimed at getting us to reduce our use of plastic sopping bags and produce less garbage. And if we don’t follow along, it will cost us more money.
This five-cent plastic bag fee that kicked in June 1.
The city’s aim in this recent bylaw is to reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in littering the streets or sent to landfill.
Midtown councillor Michael Walker is asking how many fewer bags are being used as a result of the nickel charge.
The city manager responded Sept. 30 to Walker’s inquiry. The short answer is we don’t know yet.
The General Manager Geoff Rathbone will be reporting back to the city after May 31 when the policy is a year old. At that time industry will report back to the city on how many fewer plastic bags customers are using.
So far, Metro (which bought Dominion) grocery stores have reported that by June 29 there was already a 70 percent reduction in plastic bags compared to the monthly average.
Supermarket giant Loblaw introduced the bag charge earlier back in January and also reported a 75 percent reduction in plastic bags now that customers were charged.
We shall see if this reduction in plastic bag use was just initial reaction to the nickel charge and if consumers will embrace alternatives such as reusable bags or carts.
According to 2005 audit data by Stewardship Ontario, collectively in Toronto we use 457 million retail plastic shopping bags annually.
That’s 8.8 plastic retail shopping bags, per family weekly. Continue reading

Toronto’s garbage dumps may soon overflow

City strike means 21 temp trash sites set up, two already at capacity
Others are nearing 90 percent full, city waste manager says

By Kris Scheuer
(For the latest on dumps, see my July 24 story)
I
t’s day 16 of the strike and the city’s temporary dumps are filling up fast.
Locations are full between 15 and 90 percent depending on the size of the neighbourhood trash site. 
“We are (on average) between 40 and 50 percent capacity,” Geoff Rathbone, general manager of solid waste management, said at today’s media briefing.
“There’s a range from teens to 80-90 percent.”
He wouldn’t specify which dumps are closest to being full. 
Currently, the city has 21 trash depots in neighbourhoods across Toronto. Two sites have been closed because they’ve already reached capacity. 
The government is monitoring the remaining locations daily to determine when another dump will be filled to the max, said Rathbone July 7.
If the city needs to close sites and add new ones, it has close to 200 locations to choose from in a pinch.
That’s because prior to the June 22 walkout, the city submitted a list of about 200 potential dump sites to the Ministry of Environment.
“Our certificate of approval covers all those sites,” he said. Continue reading

Toronto eyes recyclable coffee cups

City mulls plan to require coffee shops to provide a paper lid for disposable cups
By Kris Scheuer
Originally published Nov.13.08

The city’s shining a spotlight on the disposable coffee cup you’re holding and the estimated 365 million of them Torontonians throwaway each year.
City staff is grappling with how to divert that cup from landfill and who should pay to make the hot drink
cups and lids compatible with the existing blue bin.
A recent city hall report recommended a mandatory 20-cent discount for people who bring their own mug to a
coffee shop for their java fix. It also gave retailers such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks until the end of next year to ditch the plastic lid and develop a paper alternative to top their paper coffee cups
These proposals unleashed a heated nine-hour debate the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Nov. 12. After all that,
councillors voted to defer a decision until next April (since extended to fall/09).
So now what? Continue reading

Plastic bags costs a nickel in T.O

Grocery retailers start charging 5 cents a bag as of June 1
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Dec 2/08 for Town Crier.)

A key city council plan to reduce garbage is now in the bag.
The new policy, passed Dec. 2, requires retailers and grocers to charge a nickel for each
plasticbag they give out starting this summer.
Some retailers already sell alternatives to
plastic bags, including reusable cloth bags,plastic grocery bins with handles, and metal and cloth shopping carts.
Beacher Karen Buck says the new policy is a good start.
“It may not be a strong enough disincentive,” she said, adding she’d like to see retailers charge 20 cents per
plastic bag and offer a 10-cent rebate for every reusable bag used.
“For the past 18 years, I’ve been using reusable
bags,” Buck said Dec. 8. “I’ve been subsidizing the other people using plastic bags.”
Her tipping point came in 1990.
“I was still using plastic bags for my garbage but they’d accumulate quicker than I could use them,” she said.
Now Buck and her husband, who only throw out enough garbage to fill the city’s smallest garbage bin three times a year, toss waste loosely into the bin. Continue reading

Bugs and rats could nest at mini-dumps

That’s if temporary trash sites set up during strike aren’t sprayed

By Kris Scheuer
An infestation of rats and bugs could be coming to a neighbourhood near you thanks to the city’s temporary trash sites.
With the strike now finishing its second week, the mounds of garbage are growing and so are concerns for public health as stagnant waste is left to fester in the summer sun.
“Following visits by Toronto Public Health yesterday to several of our temporary garbage drop off sites and in consultation with (medical officer of health) Dr. McKeown, we are amending our spraying protocol,” Geoff Rathbone, general manager of solid waste management services said July 3.
“We will continue to spray daily for odour control, but will implement a more balanced approach for pest control,” he said. “Therefore starting today, we will spray for pest control based on the results of daily, individual site inspections.”
Rathbone said that this could potentially reduce the amount of pest control spraying that’s needed.
To reduce the need for more spraying, he asked residents to double bag any waste tossed at these temporary mini-dumps. Continue reading

Two new Toronto garbage dumps

Sunnybrook Park/Wilket Creek and Centennial Park Arena now open
Christie Pits and York Mills Arena trash sites close

By Kris Scheuer
(July 15 update, 26 trash sites with seven now closed)

The city will close two temporary neighbourhood dumps sites that are filled to the brim and open a pair of fresh ones.
By 7 p.m. today, the trash site at York Mills Arena was at capacity and will be shut down. By Sunday July 5, the temporary dump at
Christie Pits will be full, announced Geoff Rathbone, general manager of the city’s solid waste management services. 
As a result, the city is opening an additional two locations starting immediately on day 12 of the Toronto strike. 
“We are announcing today the opening of two new temporary garbage drop-off sites commencing at 3 p.m. today,” said Rathbone. “One is Centennial Park Arena … and the other is at Wilket Creek/Sunnybrook Park.”  Continue reading

Would you swim at Sunnyside Beach?

Councillor Bill Saundercook dives in at Sunnyside Beach
Will a pilot project to clean up the water tempt you to swim?
By Kris Scheuer

Councillor Bill Saundercook swims at Sunnyside with his wedding suit on in mid-June. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

Following through on a promise made to me, Parkdale-High Park councillor Bill Saundercook took a dive into Lake Ontario off Sunnyside Beach.
As for his choice of swimming attire, the ward 13 rep decided to wear the same suit he wore at his wedding almost 30 years ago.
He dove in June 18 to promote the fact the city’s spending $1 million on a pilot project to make a section of the beach more swimmable and ward off pollution from the Humber River.

(Written June 18/09 BEFORE the city strike that started June 22, which suspended daily beach water testing. This story was originally posted June 29 at http://www.mytowncrier.ca)

Couple aims for zero garbage

Sarah McGaughey in her home. Town Crier file photo.

By Kris Scheuer
(Originally published Mar/8/07 for Town Crier.)
Sarah McGaughey and Kyle Glover made a pledge when they returned from a teaching stint in Korea in 2004 to try and go a full month without producing any waste.
One month has turned into two years of diligent effort for the Ossington and St. Clair couple. McGaughey updates their progress on her blog.
Rather than throw out items such as a TTC Metropass, markers, light bulbs and beer caps, they made art collages and cards for their friends out of them. And in the two years they threw out just two garbage bags of trash.
Nonetheless, “I felt we had failed,” said McGaughey in a Feb. 1 interview beside her kitchen table.

Continue reading

Toronto may allow backyard chickens


Toronto Chicken lady.Town Crier file photo.

Toronto opens debate to permit chickens in urban yards
By Kris Scheuer
The city may be gathering the pluck to allow residents to legally have chickens in their backyards.
The issue was raised in a staff report on urban agriculture at the June 16 Parks and Environment Committee meeting. 
“While accessibility to a healthy and sustainable supply of eggs, increased soil fertility, pest and weed control are considered benefits of keeping urban chickens, the situation requires further examination,” the report stated. “Staff will investigate the feasibility of raising chickens in an urban setting.”
The truth is, chickens are already cooped up in the city. 
As the Town Crier reported last summer, a midtown yard is home to three hens. Continue reading

Toronto strike impacts beach water

Blue flags taken down from city’s seven cleanest beaches
By Kris Scheuer

The city’s beaches are open to help beat the summer heat. But beware: water testing has been suspended as a result of the city strike. 
“We are not testing water at the beaches,” Lisa Tjoeng, a City of Toronto spokesperson, confirmed June 23. “They can swim at their own risk.”
There are lifeguards on duty at the beaches, she said. 
On June 10, the city officially opened 11 designated beaches for the season, including seven with international Blue Flag ratings.
The seven Blue Flag beaches are: Kew-Balmy, Cherry, Woodbine, Hanlan’s Point, Gibraltar, Centre Island, Ward’s Island.
But those flags will not be flapping during the strike because some key criteria is not being met, according to Environmental Defence, which monitors the Blue Flag program in Canada. 
“Blue Flag certification requires that, amongst other criteria, washroom facilities are available on beaches, garbage is picked up frequently and water quality tests are conducted at least weekly,” states a June 23 press release from Environmental Defence. “Currently, beach water quality testing is not being performed, public washrooms are locked and garbage removal is reduced.”
The labour disruption that began at midnight the morning of June 22 impacts not just water testing at beaches, but also daycare, summer camps, garbage pick-up and pools run by city workers. 
For more information on what is and is not open during the strike visit http://www.toronto.ca/labour-relations/index.htm.
(Originally published online June 24 at http://www.mytowncrier.ca)