A group of citizens in Pelham, Ontario is concerned about what they claim is improper disposal of papermill sludge on farmland and is boycotting paper recycling to get the government’s attention.
Papermill sludge is produced as a byproduct of paper recycling, and often contains inks and chemical residues that can potentially leach into the environment. Such sludges used to be buried in landfills, but in recent years the materials have been mixed with sand and used to build berms in rural areas.
Deb Vice of Protect the Ridges is a vocal opponent of the practice in Durham Region, and is monitoring the protest from other citizens in Niagara Region that has recently become home to new berms made from the material.
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment classifies the material as a product — not a “waste” — when mixed with sand. This controversial policy exempts the land application of the material from waste regulations. Vice and her friends say the environment ministry is ignoring the advice of its own expert panel that recommended the implementation of various steps in managing the material, including composting it before putting it on the ground.
“We would hope a boycott would get the ministry’s attention, but we do have concerns about the boycott, because this is not a recycling issue. It’s a waste management issue,” Ms. Vice told a Metroland newspaper.
But the Pelham group has called on residents there to withhold their paper from recycling boxes, to get the message across about their concerns about paper sludge.
Meanwhile, a meeting is being held to discuss some new initiatives that the ministry is undertaking with respect to the management of pulp and paper biosolids. Atlantic Packaging will be present to discuss new waste management technology it’s testing. There is speculation that a thermal treatment option is being developed for the difficult material.