West Hants council voted at a meeting Sept. 12 to roll out organic waste collection to all county residents.
“(I was) very pleased, very pleased. I thought, 'there, I can finally put my baby to bed,'” said Geraldine Miller in an interview the day following the decision.
Miller ran for a seat on municipal council in 2012. She said that while she was on the campaign trail, composting and getting rid of organic waste was a hot topic.
“That was what I ran on, and that was why I ran. I thought if no one was going to do anything about green bins, I would see what I could do,” said Miller, who wasn't successful in her bid to get on council.
But the topic of green bins has been bantered about council chambers periodically in the years since.
“(About) 90 per cent of Nova Scotia has green bins... I felt that we were archaic because everybody I knew (had bins),” said Miller.
“The little previous town of Hantsport, Windsor, East Hants — we were surrounded by green bins but yet no body seemed to want to make a move on green bins.”
The move to organic waste collection is now underway.
The municipality will be switching over to a new service provider for waste collection, Royal Environmental Inc. (Regroup), with a contract in effect from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2023. Due to the new contract, it gave the municipality the opportunity to examine adding to the existing service of garbage and roadside recycling of items like plastics.
In May 2017, West Hants council held a lengthy discussion on the 'green bin' program and wanted to gauge public input. In their July newsletter, they included a form for people to fill out.
The results were brought forward Sept. 12.
A total of 601 eligible West Hants residents (or 8.7 per cent) provided feedback. The 'no' count held a slight advantage, 51.4 per cent versus 48.6 per cent, but data collected from growth areas bucked that trend. For example, when the data was combined to look at the Three Mile Plains and Falmouth growth areas, 63.7 per cent were in favour.
“An eight per cent response rate is disappointing for me,” said Coun. Tanya Leopold, who opted to conduct additional research. She reached out to District 4 constituents over the summer about the subject.
The councillor said she found people were open and honest about their struggles.
“What I learned is that the majority of people are not backyard composting, or at least they had tried it and wish to have it collected at the curb,” said Leopold.
“Why don't people want green bins? Perhaps they're among the few that backyard compost religiously, however, meat, fish and bones are not recommended for your backyard composters and interestingly enough, they are not supposed to be sent to the landfill. So green bins would be the answer for this,” said Leopold.
She went on to say that results of a compliance audit revealed that 28 per cent of the garbage made should have been backyard composted.
“Residents are composting less and they're hiding or blatantly placing backyard compostable organics right into the garbage bags,” she said.
Not everybody is on board
Coun. David Keith was opposed to the entire county being on the hook for green bin collection. He said his family uses the composter and his wife purchased a tool to grind up bones.
Coun. Rupert Jannasch spoke passionately against having organic waste collection for the rural riding of District 1 and questioned some of the costs associated with the new service.
“I really have to question how environmentally sound it is to drive around rural Hants County, particularly the stretch from Brooklyn to Walton, to pick up organic waste to return and drive all the way to Aylesford to dump it off and then there's no end use for the product,” said Jannasch.
He said the product that arrives is often contaminated with items like plastic and limits what could be done with municipal compost.
“It's really questionable whether we're any better off trucking this stuff down to stockpile it for a dog's age and have to pay for it,” he said.
Along with Keith and Coun. Kathy Monroe, Jannasch was in favour of an area rate applied to the growth areas so they could have the collection.
For the 6,892 homes in West Hants (which does not include Hantsport, which already has collection), it's estimated to cost each household annually $55. For just the Falmouth growth area, the cost would have been $63; and for just the Three Mile Plains growth area, $76.
Brad Carrigan, the director of public works, said these figures are the estimates and the total charged may fluctuate slightly.
Once in place, organic waste collection will happen every second week.
“I just wish everybody luck with their green bins and let's all give it a fair try and see how it works,” said Miller.
The Province of Nova Scotia banned organic waste and recyclable products from landfills in 1998.