The town of Huntingdon has officially entered what seems to be a race to become the first Quebec municipality to outlaw distribution of non-biodegradable plastic bags at grocery stores and other retail outlets.

The Gazette reports that coming on the heels of a similar announcement by the Gaspe town of Amqui last week, Huntingdon‘‘s announcement this week that it plans to ban the bags on Jan. 1 came as part of an ambitious Green Plan tabled by Mayor Stephane Gendron at a council meeting Tuesday night.

Huntingdon, 75 kilometres southwest of Montreal, near the New York state border, voted in January 2006 to halt its recycling operations because the private recycling company serving the town was planning to triple the fee it charged for the service.

That controversial move lead to a complete rethink of how the town was managing its waste and the result is a Green Plan that would have Huntingdon operating its own recycling plant, opening an “eco-centre” that would serve the surrounding region, and run a composting facility with curbside compost collection.

Gendron says his plan will allow the town of 2,666 to meet the provincial government‘‘s goal for all Quebec municipalities to divert from landfill – by recycling, composting or otherwise reusing – at least 65 per cent of divertable waste by 2008.

Halting the recycling program was “the best decision we‘‘ve ever made,” said Gendron in a written statement.

“The cost of recycling has exploded over the past few years and nobody was asking the question: Who is profiting from this new fad and this sentiment of guilt? Obviously, it is an oligopoly of a few deep pockets grabbing the taxpayers‘‘ money in the name of the environment. This situation is a real scandal.”

Gendron says his Green Plan will bring jobs and business to the region, will cost less than paying private companies to do the work and will even generate some profit for the town.

The town is in the process of purchasing equipment to open its own sorting centre for recyclables by Jan. 1. It has already purchased a truck that is equipped with automated arms to pick up special garbage and recycling bins, so fewer workers will be required to do the curbside collection. (A Quebec government program designed to help one-industry towns is financing the equipment purchase.)

The plan is to have custom garbage and recycling bins distributed to each household, the cost of which (about $120) would be apportioned to residents over two years of tax bills.

By 2009, the mayor‘‘s plan is to reduce garbage pickup frequency from once a week to once every two weeks, and increase recycling pickup from once every two weeks to once a week.

The composting project is under study, the mayor said, but he hopes to offer curbside composting pickup by the fall of 2008.

The mayor estimates the Green Plan, if it is implemented completely, will bring the town‘‘s garbage and recycling costs down to about $100,000 a year from the current $260,000.

As for the plastic bags, a draft bylaw was tabled Tuesday, and Gendron hopes to pass it at a special council meeting to be held next week. If it passes, the law would come into effect on Jan. 1, and Huntingdon would beat out Amqui by about a month to become the first town in Quebec to ban the bags.

Gendron said he expects the bag bylaw to pass easily, although some merchants had expressed concerns.

“Some of the grocery store owners were saying they couldn‘‘t imagine their customers walking out of the store with ground beef in their bare hands, or that they were afraid of losing clients to stores in Ormstown or Valleyfield, where they provide plastic bags. I told them that on the contrary, if we publicize the fact we are really green here in Huntingdon, people will be

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #40-2007-October 5, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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