Peterborough city council, sitting as general committee on July 4, endorsed a plan to phase in an eventual ban of single-use plastics at city-owned locations including city hall and the wastewater treatment plant.
This includes items such as shopping bags, cutlery and drinking straws.
“Key products we’re targeting are plastic straws. You can ditch them and go to a reusable straw. Easy to do. Another example is stir sticks. Perfect example of an alternative is a piece of (uncooked) spaghetti. Use it to stir your coffee,” said Dave Douglas, city waste diversion manager.
“Another product: coffee mugs. Lug a mug, use a reusable mug. Water bottles. The tap water is fantastic, use city water and use a reusable water bottle.”
The recommended strategy would also see the city start the creation of a City of Peterborough – Zero Waste Event planning guide, develop and implement an enhanced public awareness campaign including updated promotional and educational signage for public spaces such as parks, recreational facilities and city-owned locations, and create a temporary, 24-month contract position to assist with the design and implementation of single-use plastics reduction strategy recommendations.
The cost of the proposed contract is estimated to be approximately $100,000, which would be funded through a reserve.
“This (strategy) was one of my election platforms and promises in 2018 to the constituents of Peterborough, so I’m pleased the report is here with us tonight,” Coun. Gary Baldwin, who chairs the city’s waste management portfolio, told the virtual general committee meeting on Monday.
Baldwin and a group of citizens formed a working group in 2019 to look at ways for the city to reduce its single-use plastics.
A few weeks ago, the federal government announced it would prohibit the manufacturing of some single-use plastic items effective Jan. 1, while other prohibitions won’t kick in until 2025 with a goal to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030.
“What we’re going to find, is just by the banning of this will mean less of that will be purchased and incorporated into our community, ultimately ending up in our waste or blue box stream,” added Douglas.
Douglas tells Global News Peterborough that plastic makes up about eight to nine per cent of the city household waste stream.
He says a lot of it is recyclable but some of it falls through the sorting system.
“Our challenge at our recycling facility, and we have state-of-the-art technology, a lot of these smaller items are going through the sorting lines, and a lot of it’s automated, and is falling through and coming out as residue at the end,” he said.
“You wouldn’t see a straw go through the system and get picked up or a stir stick get picked up by the optic eye, so these items are challenging for us.”
The city’s diversion rate is 52 per cent.
Douglas says when the city adds organics in 2023, it will add 20 percentage points to bring it to more than 70 per cent.
“When we target these recyclables that end up in the garbage stream, we are anticipating we can exceed 75 and ultimately 80 per cent diversion in our quest to zero waste,” Douglas said.
Douglas added that a clear bag garbage program would be the “ultimate silver bullet” in the city’s quest for a high diversion rate and expects that to roll out in the future.
The single-use plastics reduction strategy will need final approval at an upcoming council meeting.