Friday, July 12, 2024
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor – November 29, 2023

The Healthy Beast

Dear Editor,
Ottawa’s comments about their future in waste management are now suddenly in favour of an incinerator, as quoted by Allan Hubley (Kanata South city councillor) on CBC radio last week, “Incinerators are 95 per cent cleaner than landfill”. Sounds like echoes of our own Pontiac incinerator proponents. When it comes to incinerators, this catch phrase is now trending; “99 per cent pure”. Quick, someone a make t-shirt.
This all depends on what you are incinerating. For example, I burn wood at home for heat. I have a masonry fireplace that burns quite efficiently at high temperatures. We know this because of the enormous difference in creosote compared to our cook stove found when sweeping the two chimneys this year. But, and this is a big “but”, what kind of wood we burn is the key to it’s efficiency. If we were to burn wet or unseasoned wood, coniferous or softwoods instead of dry seasoned maples and oak, burning would be useless for good heat and we would find a noticeable difference in the amount of creosote, soot and smoke produced in the burning. Anyone who burns wood understands this, so why would it be much different to assume the same principles wouldn’t apply to incinerators?
Ninety-nine or 95 per cent pure emissions, really? Caveat: depends on what you are burning. If this is at all possible, incinerators need to be burning “clean garbage.” Meaning no plastics from recycling and no organics from compost. This is all junk food to “the beast”.
If we are participating in composting and recycling, what exactly is left to burn? What constitutes this clean garbage oxymoron? This question brought me to investigating what I actually had in my kitchen garbage can today. I do compost and recycle yet I do also fill this can with stuff. So I began looking at what this stuff was. Maybe I could discover some of this “clean garbage.” I found lots of zippy bags with food residues inside as well as dust, dirt and dog hair from sweeping and vacuuming, some wet papers towels, a styrofoam meat tray and used tea bags that my husband should have put into our kitchen composting. All of that stuff could have been either recycled or composted. Those zippy bags could have easily been replaced with some re-usable food containers or rinsed out and placed in the recycle. I realized that I could do better. My behaviors could easily change with a little incentive in my waste management practices. Ideas like pay-per-use garbage disposal or limitations on garbage output are examples achieved by methods like providing small sized garbage bins and larger recycle and compost bins that are more often collected.
But that got me thinking, as regular garbage decreases and recycling increases, what exactly is happening to all those plastics? Stories of sending our recycle off in ocean barges to third world countries for open pit burning started to appear a number of years ago. That was terrible, I hoped that was still not happening. I recently watched a video on the question of where recycling goes in Vancouver, BC. Their dirty little secret was that it was being dumped into a waste-to-energy plant in Burnaby, BC. But, of course, we would never do anything like that. I have been told on good authority that our recycling will be processed in a new facility in Montreal. Oh, so more traveling of waste, even further away than Lachute? Any 30 tonne “electric” garbage truck will be swiftly turned away in shame if it shows up at our Pontiac incinerator with so much as a speck of recycle or compost in it. Will that be determined after it’s dumped its 30 tonne load on the factory floor only to be thoroughly inspected by opening every black garbage bag? If contaminants are found, does everything go back into the truck and get sent back to its city in embarrassment? That’s 30 tonnes of garbage. After as much as a 100 km road trip being turned away to go all the way back to its city. Really? That’s going to happen? But the beast is hungry and maybe a little junk food will be ok and maybe no one will notice that the 99 per cent clean emissions are a bit off that day?
Getting rid of waste is a dirty business. Burning, burying and dumping of the evidence have been the means of business and industry forever. We are continuously finding more and more of these atrocities as discoveries are made of toxins found in our lands as well as neon green blooms and dead fish in our beautiful waterways that continue to appear to this day. Industry often tells us fairly tales like “Give us all your money and just trust us. We have all that high tech stuff that you really don’t understand anyways”. We then have to try to figure out how to clean up their mess as they quietly go bankrupt and slither away from the scene of the crime. I, for one, am not buying this anymore. Compared to the atrocities committed by business and industry, we are small potatoes. Many of us now are recycling superstars and composting queens who diligently sort our garbage and go the extra mile to volunteer in our local waste management practices. Business and industry need to step up to the waste management plate and be held accountable and stop continuing to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. In the grand scheme of things, this incinerator plant proposed for the Pontiac is just that: a business in the industry of waste.
What makes it any different from the others?

Christine Anderson, Thorne

Beware of the Big Deal

Dear Editor,
One of the touchstones of my early philosophical development is Dr. Seuss. In his story, Yertle the Turtle, he mocks the power-hungry, and champions the little player. It begins like this:
“On the faraway island of Salamasond, Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond. It was a nice little pond; it was clean, it was neat. The turtles were happy, there was plenty to eat. Oh, I am the king of all I can see - I don’t see enough, that’s the trouble with me.”
So King Yertle commanded his subjects to stack up, so that he could perch at the top, thus seeing and ruling over more territory. They did, and he was delighted to see all his new territory, over which he ruled supreme. But then, an inconsequential turtle named Mac, near the bottom of the stack, sneezed, and the whole absurd construction fell down. The turtles went back to eating and sunning, as is their right livelihood.
I’ve come to recognize, that when a deal is so big, it is seldom, if ever, in the interest of the Pontiac to pursue that path. And turning now to another source of inspiration, the band called Timbuk3; “It’s the little things, that make life such a big deal.”

Robert Wills, Shawville and Thorne

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