Sarah Shelton braves the brisk winter morning, carefully shuffling her way over the ice to the end of the driveway. Shelton drops her three black garbage bags before making her way back to grab her recycling bins – she is one of the thousands of Brantford residents putting out their garbage for the week. It’s part of a routine with no second thought of where this trash will end up and what impact it will have on the city’s landfill.
But that is about to change. Brantford is planning to make improvements to the city’s solid waste collection program.
The Mohawk Street Landfill is currently estimated to hit capacity by 2064. With the city’s population expected to grow – to 154,483 residents, up from 102,149 in 2017 – city staff have agreed to make changes ahead to help extend the life expectancy of the landfill.
Until the 1960s the city of Brantford had multiple unregulated dumpsites where residents would throw all their trash. From cardboard to tires, hazardous waste, food and live chickens, the dumps had very few rules. The Mohawk Street landfill officially opened in 1965 and dumping trash finally became regulated by the local government.
Despite the new and improved site, it wasn’t until 1987 that the county started the process of adding in recycling and began diverting waste. The city implemented a blue bin program by 1990 and residents were learning to adjust to their new system.
Since then, there has been little change to the waste management system and the 175-hectare landfill is massive compared to many other municipalities. Because of its size, city councillors had never faced pressure to make changes or improvements.
“For past councils, it hasn’t been a huge priority because we’ve had the luxury of this huge cushion for capacity in our landfill,” said Brantford Mayor Kevin Davis.
In 2019 the city declared a climate emergency and began ramping up its research. City-wide audits found the waste diversion rate has been stuck at 34 per cent since 2015. Residents can put out up to five garbage bags a week and audits show up to 51 per cent of the household waste could be further diverted but is going to the landfill.
The director of environmental services, Selvi Kongara, approached city council in January with an official vision document to help communicate how Brantford can improve these statistics. After ten years of trying to implement a composting program, Brantford city councillors have officially voted to move forward with the next steps.
FUTURE GOAL, PLANS AND STEPS
Looking ahead, the city’s next action will be to organize and complete an up-to-date city-wide waste audit.
“We hope to reach 70 per cent waste diversion by 2050,” said Kongara.
The city will hire a planner to help with the specifics before presenting the official plan to the council. In the meantime, the city will work on education, outreach, and financial incentives to help transition Brantford residents to their new system.
City surveys suggest Brantford residents are interested in implementing composting into their weekly routines, but some are nervous.
“I think green bins are a good idea, cutting back on garbage bags is a great idea,” says Shelton. “But I’m going to be very honest – I’m not really sure how that will work out, especially having a larger family.”
As Brantford is expected to keep growing, the city is trying to tackle the landfill issue before it’s too late and too expensive. With council having officially agreed to move ahead with the proposal, the city will start working on planning, getting supplies and implementing a composting program. It looks like Sarah Shelton could be adding a green bin to her chores as early as November 2023.