Presenter challenges city to reduce waste by 70 per cent before end of 2023

By Kirk Winter

David Webb, a retired civil servant and member of the city’s waste management advisory committee, wants council to become leaders in waste reduction. Webb challenged councillors to take “bold steps” to reduce waste by committing the city to reduce its own waste by 70 per cent by the end of 2023.

In his five-minute presentation to council, Webb began by reminding council of the “tough waste decisions” they had already made.

“The implementation of clear plastic bags was a bold step,” Webb said. “That involved a huge change and resulted in significant waste being diverted away from the landfill. The mattress recycling program and the diversion of construction and demolition waste is also having a significant impact on waste reduction.”

Webb contends that while the city continues to be a leader in waste reduction, there is so much more they could be doing. Webb applauds council for committing to reduce city-generated waste, decrease recycling contamination and decrease the use of single use plastics but is concerned that as of right now the vision to reduce city generated waste “sets out no targets.”

“Right now, any reduction of city waste would be a success,” Webb said. “Staff have no way of knowing if they will be meeting council’s goals and expectations. Staff won’t know what level of effort is expected. Staff needs to know a number.”

“The city’s vision must be bold,” Webb said. “A chosen goal should be a stretch for staff to achieve.”

The city has proposed that citizens should be reducing their waste production by 70 per cent between now and 2048. Webb wants the city to become a role model in the field of waste reduction and the best way to do that is to take the lead with their own garbage.

“The city needs to discover what kind of cultural changes will need to take place to achieve these targets,” Webb said. “They can only experience this by doing it themselves. These learnings can then be applied to citizens and then the process of individual reduction perhaps sped up to something before 2048.”

“If the city can’t change culture, how can we expect the citizenry to,” Webb said. “I think our stretch goal should be a 70 per cent reduction in city-generated waste by the end of 2023. Staff need to be held accountable with regular measurements taken, and the progress of the reduction should be reported to staff to motivate, inform and encourage them and to council.”

Webb suggested that citizens need to see the goal of significant waste reduction is possible, and only then will they themselves buy in.

“That which is measured gets done,” Webb said, paraphrasing Peter Drucker, known as the father of modern management.

Webb suggested that at the municipal level there would have to be policies developed, practices changed and information shared between all departments to make this goal achievable.

“There needs to be changes made in purchasing policy to change packaging,” Webb said. “We need to make suppliers and contractors more responsible for the waste they help create.”

“If we set no goal how truly is the city committed to waste reduction,” Webb said. “An aggressive timeline for the city could even extend into 2024. The best practices in government always require measurement and reporting back.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore wanted to know if the 70 per cent number was achievable.

“Seventy per cent is absolutely achievable,” Webb said. “The time to achieve it could be debatable. Perhaps 2023 is too aggressive. This has to be everyone’s goal, not just environmental services.”

Councillor Pat Dunn thanked Webb for his ideas. Dunn was a little unsure where the city should start and what kind of data is available regarding current city waste numbers.

Webb agreed that establishing a baseline corporate waste number would be tough, but that there are statistics from 2018 that could prove to be helpful.

Mayor Andy Letham wanted to know where Webb got his “70 per cent by 2023” numbers from.

Webb admitted that the seventy per cent was pulled from the existing waste reduction report that has targeted that level of reduction for individual citizens by 2048.

“I chose 2023 to spark the debate we are having,” Webb said. “If we don’t set a target, will we get a significant reduction?”  

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