The province wants to divert almost triple the amount of organic waste Manitobans currently toss in the trash. It also wants to crack down on the amount of industrial, institutional and construction waste that ends up in landfills. And it wants the City of Winnipeg to stop sending more than $1 million worth of aluminum cans to the dump every year.
A game plan on how that could happen is being put together by the provincial government with the goal of reversing the province's poor record of diverting waste from its garbage dumps, Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said Wednesday.
"Most of what we call garbage can be productively used," said Mackintosh. "It's a resource."
The province has already put $1 million on the table to decrease the amount of organic waste that ends up in landfills.
'Most of what we call garbage can be productively used. It's a resource'
Mackintosh said in 2013 the province diverted 30 kilograms per capita of organic waste. The province wants to increase that to 85 kilograms by 2020, which is more than the current national average of 65 kg per capita.
The province's trash plan is still evolving, with more public consultations to begin by the end of October. But the vision is to see an expanded organic waste curbside pickup system, or a green box next to the blue and grey boxes. Brandon, Carman, St. Pierre and Altona currently offer separate seasonal organic pickup for everything from fruit and vegetable scraps to coffee grounds to be composted. About 40 per cent of solid waste going to landfills is considered organic material.
"I think this is a low-hanging opportunity," Mackintosh said. "What we want to ask Manitobans is how do we fast-track provincewide composting? We want to get aggressive with our timelines now."
He said Winnipeg is looking at a green box pickup system similar to Brandon's, which offers a yard-waste collection service once every two weeks from April to November.
Diverting more organic waste is just the start.
In 1990, each Manitoban threw out about 1,000 kg of trash a year. That dropped to 840 kg per capita last year. While it means less materials going to the dump, the province says it's still too high when held up against diversion rates in other provinces and countries.
"Canada is the worst in the developed world for keeping materials out of landfills," said Mackintosh, citing a 2013 Conference Board of Canada study. "And within Canada, Manitoba fares only better than Saskatchewan and Alberta. We are still one of the most wasteful places in the industrial world."
Statistics Canada said in 2010, Manitoba's diversion rate (15.8 per cent) was the third lowest among the provinces and well below the national average of 24.5 per cent. Manitoba's number has likely improved following the introduction of city-wide automated recycling collection in Winnipeg in October 2012.
Mackintosh said the province also wants to clamp down on waste generated by downtown office towers, hospitals and hotels -- 50 to 60 per cent of what's in landfill sites is industrial, commercial and institutional waste.
The government also wants to get tough on construction and demolition waste such as drywall and roofing shingles, which make up about 20 per cent of what ends up in landfills.
"We're behind younger Manitobans who expect more from us adults when it comes to recycling and waste reduction," Mackintosh said. "There's a new generation with a greater awareness of how we've been impacting Mother Earth with our waste."
The province is looking at deadlines for landfills to no longer accept cardboard and organic materials.
"We do not want greater recycling to be taxpayer funded," he said. "It should be based on the polluter-pay principle and there is a role for landfill fees."
Mackintosh added by diverting more waste, -- from lumber to appliances to mattresses to power tools -- from landfills, it would create jobs in recycling the materials.
"We can boost Manitoba's economy to a greater extent with green jobs and in research and development in reusing materials that we think of as waste," he said.