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January 2016 Mayor's Column

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to kick off the New Year by spending the morning with members of our Chamber of Commerce on January 5. I presented my State of the City Address, looking back on what was achieved in 2015 but also looking forward to the exciting things ahead.

I talked about City Council's strategic goals – things like financial stewardship, creating a vibrant community and being environmentally responsible – and how that aligns with the work we do. Our strategic plan is a breathing document and it helps guide City Council in all of our decision making.

As I shared with the Chamber members, in 2016 we will continue to build on the amazing potential in our city. This includes the areas of job creation through economic development as well as the important and ongoing conversation about protecting our environment.   

If you would like to view my State of the City address it can be found online at www.lethbridge.ca.

One of Council's specific strategic goals is to take a leadership role in the protection and preservation of our natural environment in Lethbridge. Part of that leadership is the policies and strategies we've already put in place but it also includes setting a good example.

As a significant local employer, the City of Lethbridge is committed to not just talking the talk, but also guiding how to go green. Our administration is constantly looking for ways to be environmentally friendly in our day-to-day operations.

The City has adopted deconstruction practices that greatly reduce the amount of waste generated from clearing buildings from sites. In the last eight years, approximately 14,100 tonnes of waste from building deconstruction projects has been diverted from the landfill. That represents approximately 87 per cent of the total waste material from these deconstruction projects.

In terms of recycling, the City continues to do its part. Paper and cardboard are collected from City facilities and recycled on a regular basis. Many sites also have staff volunteers collect and recycle plastic containers, beverage containers and metal cans helping to reduce our environmental footprint.

While developing our Waste Diversion Policy, we learned that 58 per cent of the waste that enters our landfill each year originates from the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) sector. That leaves 23 per cent coming from residents and 19 per cent generated by the Construction and Demolition sector.

When looking at our first steps to divert waste from the landfill, it made sense to start by addressing the sector contributing the greatest waste. This lead to the five-year ICI Waste Diversion Strategy which was approved by Lethbridge City Council in August, 2015. The implementation of this strategy includes:  

  • 2016: one-year voluntary/education and consultation phase

  • 2017-2019: financial incentives for recycling introduced

  • 2019: surcharges introduced for the disposal of designated recyclable materials (paper, cardboard and organics)

  • 2020: introduction of mandatory recycling and bans on disposal of designated materials in the landfill

  • Ongoing: commercial tipping fees at the landfill will progressively increase throughout the implementation schedule

Our full ICI Waste Diversion Strategy can be found at: www.lethbridge.ca/icistrategy.
As part of the education phase, I encourage our Industrial, Commercial and Institutional as well as our Construction and Demolition sectors to consider these questions:

  1. Has the ICI Strategy been discussed and how will your organization respond?

  2. Are you developing policies and practices within your organization or business?

  3. Are you contemplating forming an environmental committee to involve employees and identify opportunities, goals and communicate best practices?

  4. Are waste streams being measured and monitored?

  5. What data exists for your organization to show that programs are working?

By reflecting on how your business or organization will be impacted by these changes, you can prepare and implement change that will help us all be successful in reducing waste. There are lots of innovative ideas out there on how we can be better stewards of our environment and I encourage you to research what's happening in your respective industries in this regard.

We are excited to be hosting the Alberta Recycling Spring Seminar in Lethbridge from February 24-26. The event is sponsored by the Association of Alberta Coordinated Action for Recycling Enterprises (Alberta CARE). This organization supports communities, recycling groups and institutions in implementing a waste recycling culture. The conference will be a valuable learning opportunity for a wide range of people across the province including: elected officials, waste management employees, community recycling groups, businesses, school boards and others interested in reusing, reducing, recycling and recovery. If you would like more information be sure visit their website at www.albertacare.org  where you can register for this great event, right here in our own backyard.  

Tackling environmental issues takes a wide-spread community effort. This means both businesses and residents need to do their part. As we gather for our regular City Council meeting on January 25, I anticipate we will further discuss and debate options for residential waste diversion and recycling programs so all components of the community are working together to maximize waste diversion.

I'm proud to say we have made great strides over the last several years to protect our environment. I am confident that the combination of these initiatives will help us build a stronger, healthier, and a more environmentally responsible community now and into the future.

Every day I witness the great opportunities available here in Lethbridge. My hope for the coming year is that we continue to support residents and businesses to be successful and also attract new, progressive initiatives that will shine a light on all we have to offer. As a city, it is important that we continue to work together to realize our full potential.