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Aldermen pleased with turnout at organics open house

By: Matt Durnan

  |  Posted: Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 01:28 pm

Airdrie Waste and Recycling Education Coordinator Paul Lyons delivers a presentation on the City’s new curbside organics program at City Hall on March 13.
Airdrie Waste and Recycling Education Coordinator Paul Lyons delivers a presentation on the City’s new curbside organics program at City Hall on March 13.
RON CHAPMAN/For Rocky View Publishing

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If the number of residents who attended the second of three City-run open houses is any indication, there is a still a level of apprehension among Airdrie residents when it comes to the new curbside organics pick-up program.

Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown rolled out the first of more than 14,000 green bins on March 10 in advance of the program’s introduction in April.

City staff hosted the second of three open houses on March 13 at City Hall to shed some light on the program and clear up any misinformation that may still be circulating.

More than 100 residents packed council chambers to hear a presentation from Waste and Recycling Education Coordinator Paul Lyons and Kathleen Muretti, who manages the department.

Concerns and questions raised by residents did not differ significantly from the last open house that was much more sparsely attended at Bert Church Theatre on Feb. 27.

Dale Arnason, a resident of Jensen Heights, has attended both open houses and spoken out against the program’s implementation.

“The education on the program should’ve been done before it was implemented,” said Arnason, who feels the City has been misleading when promoting curbside organics pick-up. “This isn’t an Airdrie program, it’s a single-family dwelling program; it’s not available to people living in condos or apartments, is the City saying that those people eat less?”

Residents remained inquisitive about what can and can’t be put in the green organics bin, as well as the size of the bin and whether or not there would be space on the road when they put it out.

Those in attendance also brought up the monthly cost associated with the program of $3.95 per month (because of the April start), slated to be $4.54 per month next year, and Muretti repeated that in the long term, organics recycling is a feasible solution that will reduce landfill costs for the City.

“The costs to send waste to landfills continues to rise,” said Muretti.

“Currently, the cost to send organic waste to an organics facility is about half of what it costs at a landfill and as these facilities start to be more widely used, it will create a competition, which will keep prices stable if not drive them down.”

The current price for waste sent to landfills is $107 per metric ton, while the price for organics is $55 per ton.

Arnason said he was unhappy with having to pay for a program that he doesn’t see himself using.

“I’m not against recycling, but this is something I don’t need and won’t use,” he said. “It would take me six months to fill up that green monstrosity.”

Muretti also explained the reasoning behind contracting a company to pick up residents’ organics rather than having everything done in-house.

“These facilities need materials to function,” said Muretti. “We simply just don’t produce enough organic waste to operate our own facility.”

A strong contingent of City council was on-hand for the meeting, with all council members but Alderman Allan Hunter and Mayor Peter Brown in attendance.

The aldermen commended the work done by Muretti and Lyons in educating residents.

“Our staff did a great job presenting, it was nice to see such a great turn out and that people came here with their concerns and I think our staff was able to address those concerns and provide the answers that people were looking for,” said Deputy Mayor Ron Chapman.

Alderman Fred Burley, who participated in the pilot project for curbside organics pick-up last summer, echoed Chapman’s statements.

“It’s always good to see that people are taking interest in what’s going on in the city,” said Burley. “There were some concerns coming in, but I think that a lot of people here left happy.”

The general consensus among the aldermen in attendance was that they could see residents slowly warming up to the idea of a curbside organics program.

“Airdrie residents as a whole have always been very conscious when it comes to waste diversion,” said Alderman Kelly Hegg. “I think it’s just that this is something new that will take a bit of getting used to, but it shouldn’t worry anyone.”

Alderman Darrell Belyk stood in agreement with Hegg, saying there would be some growing pains associated with the program but overall it was a positive for Airdrie.

“In a growing city like ours we have to be looking for ways to reduce our waste and be environmentally conscious,” said Belyk. “This program will take some getting used to, but in a matter of a year or two, it will just become part of the city’s culture.”

Alderman Candice Kolson admitted that she was slightly skeptical of the program at first but commended the work of Muretti and Lyons for making her feel more at ease.

“At first I thought it was kind of gross, I didn’t want to have food scraps around and I was worried it would smell bad,” said Kolson. “Once Kathleen explained to me how everything works, plus the savings and benefits to the environment it’s really a no brainer, so I’ve been teaching my kids about it and they’re excited...”

The last of the three organics pick-up presentations will be held at Bert Church Theatre on April 9 at 7 p.m.


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