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So Moved, St. John’s: 11 January 2021

in Featured/So Moved by

Municipal Vermouth

2020 is finally gone and the first public municipal council meeting of the New Year is upon us! I woke up last Monday morning in a bit of a post-holiday stupor, thinking I’d have to rearrange my day to make the meeting, but Council had that one off, the lucky buggers. Even with that extra week to recalibrate, there was definitely still a sleepy vibe today. But dassit, they can’t all be bangers.

To get started I’d like you to mull over this: If diverting organics from the dump saved us $5 million per year, how many years would it take for a commercial-scale composting facility in St. John’s to pay for itself in tipping fees savings alone? Not to mention revenue from selling compost. 

Cleaning Up the Sanitation Bylaws

There are changes coming to how, and how much, residential garbage can be placed at the curb for pick-up, which were illustrated by Cllr Froude. The first of these is slated to come into effect on March 1, 2021—the bag limit will decrease from ten bags per week to four bags per week. No limit for recycling bags or yard waste bags.

I didn’t realize the current limit was 10! Holy crap, that seems really excessive. I don’t have any kids though, so maybe I’m being insensitive. Do babies make a lot of garbage? I checked with my friends who had their first child in November, and they say that their output has gone from 2-3 Billy Boot kitchen catchers per week to 4-5. I’d say that could all still fit into 1 household-sized bag. Double or triple the number of babies, they’d still have well under the 10 bag maximum. So I don’t think babies are the answer. (This is very anecdotal evidence, so feel free to completely disregard my friends’ waste habits.)

For people worried about this slash: it appears adjustments in your behaviour are attainable. Residents on the automatic pick-up routes are already limited to 4 bags, in order to get their bin lids closed, and it seems to be going quite well. Look to your bin-savvy neighbours for inspiration.

It’s fantastic that they’re mandating waste-conscious practices. I hope they continue making strides. Halifax residents are allowed 6 bags every second week, AND organics pick-up. I know the city has its “reasons” for not doing food organics pick-up, but it still boggles my mind. It is a real barrier for many in making composting a regular part of their lives.

According to a National Waste Characterization report published in 2020 by Environment and Climate Change Canada, 32.7% of what goes to Robin Hood Bay (RHB) is food waste. A further 7.9% is yard and garden waste (which RHB accepts separately from garbage, and apparently composts… mysteriously). I’m sure not all of this makes it into those big brown paper bags. 

You can see the breakdown in the table below. RES means residential, which includes both single-family and multi-family households.

That adds up to 40.6% of our waste that could be easily broken down aerobically—this compost could be turned into soil for gardens, farms, and all those boulevard strips I’d love to see installed to separate bike lanes and car lanes! “Give us your carrot peels, we’ll turn ‘em into complete streets.” What a deadly campaign slogan.

Looking further into the data, we can see that 40.6% translates to a whopping ~72,000 tonnes in a year that could be diverted into a closed-loop system of its own. Based on current tipping fees of $82 / tonne at RHB (just increased on January 1 from $67.60), that works out to $5,904,000.

Of course, at least some people are properly separating yard and garden waste at present, so this number isn’t perfect. But you can see that we’re all paying a lot of money to get rid of something that actually has a lot of value.

I seem to have migrated to criticising the City at a moment when it’s doing something good. That perhaps is a bit discouraging for them. Columns full of praise don’t teach us very much though, so here we are. 

On January 1, 2022, three of your four garbage bags will have to be clear—the 4th can remain opaque for privacy’s sake. Recycling will be mandatory at that time, because the sanitation crew will be able to see your trash and reject it if it contains recycling. They’ll be chill about it at first, though. Staff will take a “flexible and understanding approach” to implementing the new rules. They’re also going to talk to retailers to make sure there’s enough clear bags for us all to buy. The crowd out in central and the crowd on the West coast have already been doing the clear bag thing for a while now, so don’t be a sooky Townie. (If you have a medical exemption relating to any of these garbage by-laws, though: definitely apply.)

Cllr Hickman tells us the by-law update also specifies timing and placement of bins / bags. You’ve got a window between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. (not the night before!) to drag it curbside. This means the street, NOT the sidewalk!

Cllr Skinner raised a concern from some Ward 2 neighbourhoods where bins for automated pick-up have not been distributed. He said that garbage bags get torn open, and the amount of refuse tossed around on the streets is a problem. One resident suggested the sanitation crews drop a community bin for everyone to put their bags in on garbage day, which could then be emptied by staff. Mayor Dan is down to take the suggestion under advisement and send it to public works staff to have a look at. Cool.

Notices Published—Small Biz Near You!

There’s going to be a baby and maternity seamstress opening a home-based business on Ayrshire Place. B’ys I kid you not, there is someone against this, and among their questions is this curiosity: “If the business operates, will customers have to visit for measurements… not sure what is meant by baby and maternity accessories?” Lord. Jesus. 

There will also be a new 5 bedroom Bed and Breakfast and 12-person eating establishment (7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m), called the Postmaster House, at 20 Gower Street (near Wood). The regular parking woes were whined, but one person, “incensed” with this suggestion, thinks the applicants should use the old Brass Rack if they want to enter the restaurant business rather than changing the “character of a pleasant residential neighbourhood.” Again: Lord. Jesus. 

Thankfully someone counter-balanced: “In reference to the 20 Gower Street proposal, I personally like it. Twelve people would provide a pretty unique and quaint atmosphere and of course provide a livelihood for the owners and a destination for many.  I think businesses like Halliday’s, Georgetown Bakery, Volcano Bakery, Food for Thought, The Parlour, Caines, etc add so much to the downtown. Without them, we are just a suburb that happens to be situated downtown.” They bolded, not me—but isn’t that the truth.  

A home-based retail business selling miscellaneous items online (e.g. toys and clothing) had its Macbeth Drive (Airport Heights) discretionary use application rejected on account of local traffic and parking issues. Residents in the area have been lobbying for traffic calming measures to be put in place for over 12 years. Cllr Stapleton told them they’d be getting speed bumps in 2019, only to find out a year later that they would not. With typical speeds in the 45-50 kph range, the area doesn’t qualify.

The Old Dublin Bakery is moving into the old Planned Parenthood building on Merrymeeting Road. How epic! It would have been so cool if they could have coexisted somehow. Reproductive and sexual health become only more enticing with chocolate croissants and glazed scones. What motivation to not forget your pap test. But we’ll accept and cherish the stand-alone neighbourhood bakery model as well.

Doggy Bag of Other Interesting Things

  • A Crown Land Lease in the Agricultural Zone in the Goulds has been approved. They’re going to grow vegetables and blueberries!
  • A virtual public meeting, chaired by an independent facilitator, will be held on the rezoning of 28 Eric Street to accommodate 3 town houses, to be built by Habitat for Humanity. The location is adjacent to the existing community garden—read more about it here. The City will not be carrying out an environmental assessment as it is not normal practice in this situation.
  • Campbell’s Ship Supplies is going to supply a year’s worth of leather work boots, for “various city employees.” How many pairs of boots can you get for $90,089.88? This question will keep me awake tonight.
  • If you’re “particularly chuffed” about the work you (or someone you know) did on your historic home this year, Cllr Burton wants you to get your nomination papers in for an award! 
  • Deputy Mayor O’Leary will be taking an unpaid leave of absence to run in the upcoming Provincial election, as the NDP candidate in the district of Mount Scio. 

Municipal Brandy

In light of the ever-present concerns and challenges around parking, His Worship wants us to think about how a “little bit of cooperation and… respect for the people living in a neighbourhood goes a long ways.” It’s important to have amenities within neighbourhoods. We can look to older, popular establishments like Fabulous Foods, who’ve made it work well. (You can see the coming joke formulating in his mind, and leaking out into a grin. Here it comes.) Regarding Fabulous Foods, Mayor Dan admits, “I go there frequently. You’d never say that would ya,” and tucks a finger gun under his chin.

Photo by Graham Kennedy.

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