Clear Bag Initiative is Cornwall’s Route to Responsible Recycling

Op-Ed by Jason Setnyk
Clear Bag Initiative is Cornwall’s Route to Responsible Recycling

The recent decision by Cornwall City Council to implement mandatory recycling and a clear-bag collection program marks a significant moment in the city’s approach to waste management. As we trek towards a more sustainable future, it is essential to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The transition to mandatory recycling and clear bags is not merely a policy change; it is a cultural shift. Educating the public about the importance of this transition is paramount. The clear-bag program, set for a soft launch on January 1 and full enforcement by April 1, 2025, aims to increase transparency in waste disposal, making it easier for waste management personnel to spot recyclables that should not be in regular trash. This visibility can encourage residents to become more conscientious about their waste, leading to increased recycling rates and reduced landfill use.

However, there are obstacles. A significant portion of the public, 74% of survey respondents, opposed the clear-bag policy citing reasons such as privacy and perceived costs of clear-bags. Overcoming this resistance requires a concerted effort to communicate the long-term benefits of reduced landfill costs and environmental preservation. The 8-2 decision by Council to implement a clear-bag policy is a step in the right direction despite substantial public opposition.

However, increasing the allowable curbside bag limit from two to four is perplexing and confusing. While intended as a carrot to encourage adherence to the new recycling and diversion program, it risks sending mixed messages. The primary goal of the clear-bag initiative is to reduce waste, and increasing the bag limit could undermine this objective. Although it’s more fair to large families, it may confuse residents and dilute the urgency of minimizing waste output. The 6-4 decision by Council to implement a bag increase indicates a divided opinion.

Furthermore, January 1 marks the introduction of an organic waste collection green bin program. Organic waste in landfills significantly contributes to methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. We can substantially reduce our environmental impact by diverting this waste to green bin programs. However, it’s important to acknowledge residents who already compost at home. The municipality should consider exemptions or reduced requirements for households that can prove they are effectively composting at home. I was pleased to hear discussion about this point during the debate at the Council meeting on February 13, and I am curious to read how this will be addressed in the finalized policy.

Communicating all these changes presents significant challenges. The transition to mandatory recycling, clear-bag collection, green bins, and increased bag limits demands a concerted effort to educate the public. Additionally, there’s a risk of information overload, where residents may feel overwhelmed by the rapid changes and become resistant or disengaged.

It is imperative that we navigate this transition with clear communication and a focus on long-term benefits. Clear and consistent messaging is needed to ensure residents understand the new policies and their implications. Effective communication strategies, such as targeted outreach, open houses, traditional media, social media (including photos and videos), and messaging in multiple languages are crucial for informing the public.

In conclusion, Cornwall’s transition to mandatory recycling and a clear-bag collection program is a commendable step towards environmental sustainability. Extending the life of our landfill will save taxpayers substantial money and benefit the environment. This policy shift was necessary because a significant minority of households and businesses were not recycling. Now, we can increase compliance. Now, we can ensure Cornwall’s cleaner, greener future by embracing these changes as a community.

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