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Waste 2.0 

HRM continues its slow march towards putting more source-separating waste bins on city sidewalks. Mike Fleury gets trashed.

It began in March of 2005, when Mayor Kelly proudly posed for a photo op outside city hall. He stood beside a four-stream waste receptacle in Parade Square, the first of its kind in downtown Halifax. Granted, it wasn’t on a sidewalk (too bulky)—but hey, it was a start.

That event formally kicked off phase one of the Capital District waste diversion plan. Over the past decade, even as Halifax gained international recognition as a leader in waste diversion, the city’s greatest success has always been its household waste-management program. Outside the home—especially downtown—the city is still struggling to find a responsible way to keep waste off the streets.

“We’re dealing with a deficiency in the number of waste receptacles on the street…we’re playing catch up a bit,” says Capital District manager Jacqueline Hamilton, who is dealing with the challenges of waste diversion in the downtown core of the municipality.

The city’s diversion plan has now entered phase two; last week it committed just over $120,000 to purchase 150 new waste receptacles. Fifty of those bins will feature three-stream source separation, with options for garbage, food waste and recyclables (cans and bottles). The other 100 bins will be garbage cans.

One of the main stumbling blocks for the city has always been finding a source- separating bin design that will fit on city sidewalks without blocking the public’s right- of-way. Smaller, non-separating garbage bins are easier to place, but not as desirable. Hamilton says designers are catching up to environmental demands and beginning to provide the city with more options.

“We only found the one product when we purchased the 11 that went in the Capital District parks ,” she says. “With these new bins, we’re dealing with a product that never existed prior to the last nine months.”

Hamilton is also hoping the new bins will help tackle a growing problem of cigarette butts on city streets, a problem that has worsened since tougher provincial anti-smoking legislation kicked in last fall. All of the new bins will have an attachment for ashes.

“That, I think, is just a lack of awareness on the part of consumers, who aren’t aware that flicking your cigarette butt on the street is considered waste,” she says. The city plans to launch a civic pride campaign this year to try and address some of these problems.

“If we can engage people in a holistic way, we could really influence a major transformation in the quality of downtown areas.”

Kari Riddell works with the provincially sponsored group Clean Nova Scotia. She also organizes the annual Great Nova Scotia Pick-Me-Up. Although Clean NS doesn’t collect specific data about downtown Halifax, it does collect data about some of the most common trash complaints in the city. Riddell’s not surprised that downtown is being singled out as a problem.

“Probably our number one piece of feedback is that the city needs more waste receptacles,” she says. And Riddell’s most commonly cited garbage problems—“fast-food items, plastic bags and coffee cups, usually found near convenience stores, fast-food outlets and bus stops”—are compacted in high-density downtown areas.

Don Pellerine, a public works supervisor with the city, also believes the downtown garbage situation needs attention, but says this phase of the Capital District project should make an impact. He’ll meet with other city staffers on Monday to decide where the new bins will be placed.

“You look at the Hollis Street-Lower Water Street area…the lower corridor of the Capital District is virtually null and void of litter cans.” Pellerine mentions Barrington, Spring Garden, Gottingen, Argyle and Quinpool as focus areas in Halifax. Portland Street and other parts of downtown Dartmouth will also be considered.

“Our aim is to have three per block. Ideally, one of the smaller 20-gallon cans on the ends of the block and then a three-stream bin on the middle of the block,” he says. “We don’t want them helter-skelter anymore, just stuck all over the place. We’re trying to get a more consistent approach.”

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