I enjoyed reading Guy Crittenden’s editorial in the December/January 2001 edition, at least some of it. While the information is correct, the overall theme that communities should share their information (“…it’s annoying when facility managers aren’t more forthcoming about their less than pleasing numbers”) implies that we haven’t been forthcoming. This is unfair and untrue.
We’ve been operating on a number of waste streams (i.e., IC&I and residential) for several years and have been sharing our available data (the 58 per cent overall diversion rate) for as long. At the time, we had no way of determining diversion on a waste-stream-by-waste-stream basis. I think that Mr. Crittenden can appreciate that when a bale of aluminum, for example, left the plant we could not determine how much of that bale originated from IC&I sector waste and how much from residential waste. The cans weren’t labeled. We weren’t being unforthcoming with data — we didn’t have the data. To obtain this data, we needed to undertake substantial additional work, which to the best of my knowledge no other municipality has undertaken, let alone shared.
In conjunction with CSR, we developed an allocation methodology to enable us to allocate our output data to residential and IC&I input sources precisely to enable ourselves and other municipalities to know diversion data on a stream-by-stream basis. There was a lot of work done by our staff and we received help to hire consultants to work with us (funded by CSR). As soon as we had the results of that allocation (i.e., how much we diverted from residential compared to IC&I) we shared it. In fact, Cathy Smith sent it to Mr. Crittenden even before we were thoroughly satisfied that we had the final results of the allocation. He had it hot off the press. In what manner were we not forthcoming? Since then the results have been well publicized in print and at conferences, contrary to the statement in the editorial.
Mr. Crittenden also implies that we “skew data to achieve politically acceptable results.” That is insulting and also untrue. We have always presented our data accurately; aggregated data was clearly presented as such. My sense is that many readers have assumed that our data represented information which it clearly did not (i.e., residential diversion). This may be understandable, as many municipalities do not consider recycling beyond residential.
Guelph’s Wet/Dry system is not “…a failed experiment.” The goal was to increase diversion of MSW from landfill, which we achieved by moving beyond the traditional residential dry focus and targeting two additional components of MSW for increased diversion, i.e., residential, wet, and IC&I waste. We have demonstrated high diversion from each of these previously low-diversion streams and have dramatically increased the diversion of MSW from landfill in our community. As Mr. Crittenden indicated, we are considering options to improve diversion from the residential dry stream.
Manager of Solid Waste Services
[I did not mean to convey that the operators of the Guelph Wet/Dry have been dishonest with their data or have deliberately misled anyone. I apologize if such an impression was created. And thanks again for the excellent information you provided for our earlier articles. — ed.]
Since I so often contact you with a disagreement, I wanted to do so this time, when my words are in praise. I thought your editorial was insightful and put into words what many of us hope for Toronto. Your references to GAP were appreciated. You may be interested to know that the task group is being reconstituted to look at the issue of how to report costs in a standardized manner, improving even more the apples to apples reporting mechanisms.
Waste Diversion Organization