Manitoba is the worst at recycling
Manitobans are bucking the green trend by throwing away more garbage than ever before -- topping the scales at more than 1 million tonnes of trash a year -- and thereby earning the dubious distinction of being the worst recyclers in the country.
At a time when the rest of Canada is diverting almost one-quarter of its garbage away from landfills, Manitoba has gone in the other direction.
Where the province kept almost 20 per cent of its trash out of dumps in 2002, the latest provincial figures provided to The Canadian Press show only 13 per cent of garbage was diverted in 2006.
At the same time, according to Statistics Canada, the province has seen the second-highest increase in trash in Canada and has the worst recycling rate in the country.
"There have always been places in Canada that are more environmentally aware than Manitoba," said Anne Lindsey, executive director of the environmental coalition Manitoba Eco-Network.
"That has been par for the course on many issues, including knowledge and awareness of climate change ... There is something about the geography here."
Manitobans are throwing away 100,000 tonnes more now than they were in 2002, according to the figures from the province. They're also tossing out more waste per capita than the national average.
While Nova Scotia diverts 40 per cent of its waste and 99 per cent of households recycle, Manitoba only diverts 13 per cent of trash and is dead-last for recycling at 88 per cent, says Statistics Canada.
Manitoba also lags behind almost every other province in composting, using energy-efficient light bulbs and conserving water.
The provincial government is promising to do better, but others say Manitoba lacks incentive partially because of its abundance of land.
Unlike Nova Scotia, surrounded mostly by water, or Toronto, which is forced to ship its garbage to Michigan, Manitoba's 250 landfills are a long way from being full.
"The landfill here has an anticipated life of 100 years or more in terms of its capacity to accept waste," said Randall McQuaker, executive director of Resource Conservation Manitoba in Winnipeg.
"It appears to some that the waste problem here is not as urgent. We can just keep sending all our stuff to the landfill. Of course that is a horrendous waste of energy and a horrendous waste of resources."
There are very few incentives for Manitobans to recycle or compost, he added. Businesses have to pay for recycling services while there are very few accessible places for people to responsibly dispose of old computers and other electronic waste.
It's time the government made it easier for residents to do the right thing, McQuaker suggested.
"This is an area where some other provinces have moved, but Manitoba has not."
Conservation Minister Stan Struthers wouldn't commit to any new programs until he consults with "industry partners" but said he knows Manitoba must do better.
"I'm the first to say that we have to do more," Struthers said in an interview. "I'm concerned about the trends. We have to do more to make sure that we don't have all that ending up in our landfills."
The province will study other jurisdictions to see what more it can do to create a "regular and routine method" to get rid of household waste responsibly, he said.
But Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard said the province has dragged its feet when it comes to waste. For example, Saskatchewan has joined other provinces by setting up a bottle-return program, but Manitoba's NDP government has resisted.
"They have had more than nine years to act and they haven't done it," Gerrard said. "This is a simple thing that would make a dramatic difference."
With a report from CTV's Jon Hendricks