City not budging on plastic bag use for yard waste

Cathy Dobson

Sarnia is among the last communities in Canada that still collects compostable materials in environmentally unfriendly plastic bags.

And for the time being, it’s going to stay that way.

City council rejected a report from city engineer Andre Morin recently recommending a switch to paper bags for residential yard waste.

Morin said he suggested the move because not having to hiring people to cut open 150,000 plastic bags of leaves and lawn clippings each year would save money.

In fact, Emterra Environmental, the company hired to collect Sarnia’s recyclables and compostables, offered to give the city a credit of $62,250 annually if it switched to paper bags.

Morin said he had hoped the money saved could be used to offer additional compost collection days to residents, or beef up education campaigns.

But most of all, Morin likes the environmental benefit of tossing the biodegradable paper bags into the compost heap.

“The plastic bags are filthy and can’t be recycled,” he said. “So they just go to landfill.”

Of course, local residents can still use paper bags for compostable materials if they wish.

“I was hoping for a chance to go to the public with the idea and get some buy-in, but it’s going nowhere,” said Morin.

“Maybe we can look at it when we negotiate a new (collection) contract a few years from now.”

Councillors were concerned about the cost to the householder for paper bags, and the loss of jobs for people hired to empty the plastic.

There was also concern expressed that paper bags would fall apart in wet weather.

Emterra provides waste collection to 90 cities across Canada, and Sarnia and Strathroy are the only two communities it services without mandatory paper bag use, the company said.

Strathroy doesn’t compost any yard waste and sends all of it to landfill in plastic.

Sarnia residents are required to place yard waste curbside in clear plastic bags or paper bags for delivery to the city’s compost site on St. Andrew Street.

The week of June 22 is the next citywide green waste collection in Sarnia.

Point Edward residents can put their compostables curbside every Monday.