Ecology Ottawa calls for Community Partnership Grant Program for Waste Reduction and Diversion

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We delegated at Council's Environment and Climate Change Committee at their June 18 meeting to propose a grant program to reduce and divert Ottawa’s waste through community partnerships. This proposal elaborates on a petition that we launched to this effect. Read our delegation below or watch it here.

The Committee was receptive to our request, and the Chair, Councillor Shawn Menard, introduced a direction to staff responding to many of our requests.

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. I’m doing so on behalf of Ecology Ottawa.

We’re here to propose a grant program to reduce and divert Ottawa’s waste through community partnerships.

Reduction is the most effective way to deal with our waste—and this is obvious: whatever waste we don’t produce we don’t need to deal with. It’s the end of the road, the closest to zero waste we’ll get. Diversion—whether through reuse or repair or any other approach—is similarly beneficial, in that it eliminates the need for producing new goods and makes better use of what we have.

It’s for reasons like these that the draft Solid Waste Master Plan proposes as its first guiding principle the prioritization of “waste reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery so that minimal residual waste is sent to landfill,” and why its first objective is to “maximize the reduction and reuse of waste.”

And prioritizing reduction and diversion is popular among Ottawans: the second theme distilled from public feedback during the SWMP engagement process is that “actions that support the higher tiers of the waste management hierarchy (reduction, reuse and recycling) should be a priority.”

Despite all this, the SWMP draft is short on specifics when it comes to reduction and diversion.

Thankfully, several Ottawa community organizations are already doing this work. I’m thinking of EcoEquitable, which recovers fabric and sewing supplies for reuse and equips women immigrants with sewing skills. I’m thinking of the Ottawa Tool Library, which helps people repair items to prolong their life. I know the City has even partnered with the Tool Library for its Repair Cafes. I’m also thinking of the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library, which lends equipment to help people enjoy the outdoors, or Helping with Furniture, who provides a variety of household goods to people in distress. And the list goes on.

These organizations are often operating on a shoestring and on the goodwill of countless passionate volunteers. And despite this precarity, they do excellent work.

Our point is that the infrastructure—social, institutional—already exists to achieve the SWMP’s primary objectives. With proper funding, organizations like those I’ve named could do their work with greater stability, reach, and impact.

We propose that the City create a multi-year grant program to fund organizations like these. We’re proposing $1.5 million dollars, which, if spread over three years, would permit 10 organizations to receive $50,000 per year, for example, or 16 organizations to receive $30,000 per year. I’ll let you do the math. While we understand that funds for waste management are tight, I’ll point out again that reduction and diversion are the most effective methods of waste management, the best investment of these limited funds. It certainly pales in comparison to the $500 million to replace the Trail Road landfill, or even greater sums for incineration. But this would also be money that goes directly into the community.

We’re also proposing that staffing, insurance, and rent be eligible expenses. Existing programs like CEPGP, while providing valuable funding for programs, don’t cover these essentials. Again, organizations above all need stability to continue the excellent work they’re doing.

We launched a petition to this effect a week ago, and 140 people have already expressed their support for the proposal by signing it, and new supporters keep rolling in. Ottawans want these community groups to be empowered to do this important work.

We therefore ask that you commit to a grant program to help these organizations continue this valuable work, if not increase it. This would be one of the best waste management investments we could make.

Thank you for your time.

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