For over 20 years, the Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators (AMRC) has been a key player in researching information on waste reduction programs, and bringing together its members from across Ontario to further municipal 3Rs programs. But its focus no longer is only on “recycling” and its members are not only “municipal coordinators.” Its mandate has broadened to progress waste management as a whole in Ontario, advocating on behalf of a diverse group of waste management professionals. It has evolved to become the newly renamed “Municipal Waste Association” (MWA).
The origins of the AMRC were due to the efforts of a few dedicated municipal recycling coordinators. In 1987 a meeting was hosted by the Region of Peel and organized by Peel Region’s Linda Varangu, Claudia Marsales from Halton Region and Tim Michaels from (the then) Metro Toronto. The original agenda focused on programs for the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors (IC&I) but it soon became apparent — given the standing room only turnout — that there were dozens more municipalities and organizations anxious to discuss this new thing called the “blue box.”
Regular meetings were organized. Municipal coordinators shared information, experience and resources during these meetings and (as legend has it) afterwards some gathered over drinks to reflect on current events and issues, to draft plans and goals.
At first, dedicated volunteers organized mailing lists, meetings, and committees. Eventually staff was hired through the “On-site” program which placed EI-eligible qualified persons into en- vironment-related positions. Staff enabled the AMRC to better manage the demands and responsibilities inherent with a burgeoning membership.
Information was in short supply and desperately needed by those with fledgling residential programs including blue box, leaf composting, backyard composter, and household hazardous waste, as well as for IC&I waste diversion initiatives. The AMRC filled this niche then and continues to do so 20 years later.
By the early 1990s, municipal membership in the AMRC had grown to well over 100. The Ministry of the Environment provided funding so the AMRC could expand its activities and services to members. This included workshops dedicated to specific waste diversion issues, studies, and program operation guides. The AMRC produced its first newsletter in the fall of 1990. For R Information, with Ben Bennett as editor, has proven to be an important way to link membership with timely information. In early 1991, the AMRC was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. Later that year, the AMRC’s first executive director was hired and the AMRC cemented its role as the only municipal organization dedicated to waste diversion in the province.
With the end of provincial funding in the mid 1990s and monies everywhere in short supply during the late 1990s, the AMRC tightened its belt and looked to project-based funding as well as opportunities for corporate sponsorship of its increasingly popular and well-attended workshops.
The board of the AMRC continues to consist of municipal volunteers who offer their time and expertise to contribute to the continual effectiveness of the association. Board members are either elected by standing committees or by the municipal membership. Currently, there are ten board members and five standing committees: Finance, Household Hazardous Waste, Markets/Contracts, Organics, and Policy and Programs.
The early board members of the AMRC believed there would come a time when the learning curve on waste diversion in all its forms would flatten and there might no longer be a need for an AMRC. If anything, the curve is ever steeper and the demands placed on individual municipalities to deliver cost-effective waste diversion programs have never been greater. Members are still hungry for information and enjoy networking with long-time counterparts at AMRC conferences, workshops, and committee meetings. The AMRC continue — as the Municipal Waste Association — to play a key role in the evolution of waste management. For more information about the MWA, its activities, committees, etc., contact the office at 516-823-1990 or visit www.amrc.ca