KEMPTOWN - What a difference a year makes.
In the case of Colchester County's waste pickup for instance, the municipality disposed of 18,329 fewer tonnes of garbage in its balefill facility than the previous year, thanks to a switch to a clear bag policy.
"We had fabulous uptake. Wonderful uptake," waste reduction co-ordinator Darlyne Proctor said of recycling and composting efforts undertaken by Colchester residents.
"I know the tonnages have dropped off significantly from the balefill."
Colchester County began its clear bag program last Sept. 1, although enforcement efforts did not officially kick in until Jan. 1 of this year.
Between September 2010 and the end of August 2011, the county recorded 6,845 tonnes of household garbage, compared to last year's figure for the same period of 4,984 tonnes, a difference of 1,861 fewer tonnes.
Commercial waste also saw a significant drop off, from 14,852 tonnes in 2010/11 down to 13,345 tonnes last year, a difference of 1,506 fewer tonnes.
"I certainly do think that that's a significant change," Proctor said. "And even the bales that we do bury in the landfill are lighter bales than what we did in the past as well."
Recycling efforts, meanwhile, increased to 2,963 tonnes last year from 2,377 tonnes in 2010/11, a difference of 586 tonnes.
Likewise for organic (compost) returns, which increased to 7,163.8 tonnes last year from 5,877.6 tonnes the previous year, a difference of 1,286 tonnes.
The combined figure represents almost 2,000 more tonnes in organics and recycling items that have been diverted from the landfill from the previous year.
Not only do such efforts help extend the life of the balefill facility, but it also results in more diversion credits to the county from the province.
"And this will definitely increase the revenues coming back to the municipality," she said. "Because it's compared to the '89 year and we're definitely disposing less because we're diverting more recyclables and more organics. And as well, businesses have changed how they buy things too. They're more aware of the waste costs as well, so even though we may not get it in recycling and organics, there are still other ways that waste is reduced and that all counts in the big picture for diversion for the municipality."
The clear bag policy was implemented to help the municipality meet provincial targets for waste reduction set in 1996.
And Proctor said it is certainly having the desired effect.
"Definitely, we had one of the highest disposal rates in the province. So I knew we had a lot of work to do," she said. "And we're very pleased that we're making good strides towards that way. And I guess I'm just happy with any steps moving towards that provincial goal of 300 kg per person by 2015 and this helps us get there easier."
That doesn't mean, however, that there still are not challenges faced by the program.
One "glitch", Proctor said, is that some people are using their blue bags for garbage (because you can see through them) instead of clear bags. Blue bags are strictly for recyclables, while both black bags and clear bags are for garbage. Residents are permitted a maximum of five clear bags and one dark (privacy) bag per pickup, every other week.
The municipality also still has work to do in diverting waste from large apartment buildings and some businesses, such as the smaller restaurants, Proctor said.
But one year into the clear bag program, she said, the public has bought into the concept of diverting waste.
"They seem to have embraced it ... and that's huge for us," she said. "Our success lies with our public and they have been doing a really good job.
"Thank you very much," she said, as a general message to Colchester residents. "Really appreciate your co-operation and let's keep working together."