In the 1990s, Halifax opened the Otter Lake Landfill. To maintain the highest environmental standards, the landfill included a front end processor, where workers manually sort through the in-coming trash to take out recyclables, toxics and organics that were not properly sorted by residents. Additionally, the surrounding community was promised that the landfill would be closed by 2024.
There’s been an evolution in how Butts performs at council. At first, when he addressed council, he would stand respectfully, and behaved as a true public servant. Within a year, however, he stopped standing, and merely directed his staff. By six months ago he was noticeably bored at council meetings, and recently he's been witnessed nodding asleep.
Tuesday, Butts took the unprecedented step of giving the 45-minute staff presentation on the proposed landfill changes himself. He wants nine specific changes, all with the end goal of closing the front end processor, and extending the life of the landfill, potentially to 2059. He says this will save the city up to $309 million between now and 2015. Critics say the financial savings are inflated, and the proposed changes violate the terms of the 1990s’ agreements, especially related to the life of the landfill.
Council was sympathetic to the first six of the nine proposals, all of which are designed to improve the rates of recyclable and organics diversion, and which were adopted without much debate. The most controversial of the six is a requirement that residents use clear plastic bags, with one smaller opaque bag allowed within each clear bag. Even though council has approved the proposal, the change to clear bags requires a change in a city bylaw, which in turn requires a public hearing, probably this summer. The actual requirement will be enforced six to nine months after that.
The remaining three proposals are very controversial. They include a change in policy to allow commercial waste haulers to ship garbage out of HRM, closing the front end processor and extending the size and lifetime of the landfill. Council will debate these proposals at future meetings.