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Spotlight on Zero Waste Simcoe

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In Simcoe County
Feb 16th, 2010
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By R. turgano thegreenpages
Chatting with Gord McKay from Zero Waste Simcoe.
Q. What is Zero Waste Simcoe and how did it come about?
A. Zero Waste Simcoe is a grassroots organization dedicated to helping Simcoe County become a Zero Waste community. Its 200 plus members, from across the County, are ready to show by their actions that Zero Waste is a practical and effective waste solution for the County.
Simcoe County has just gone through a long divisive battle over the Site 41 landfill. Fortunately the citizens prevailed and the County has decided to stop the landfill project. The challenge now is to lay out a new direction for waste management – and that is where Zero Waste comes in.
Zero Waste Simcoe formed around the conviction that someone had to stand up and speak for Zero Waste – How it has been practiced effectively in other jurisdictions; how it can be a game changer in society’s attitude towards waste; and how it can solve the waste challenges of Simcoe County.
Q. What are your latest and greatest highlights and achievements so far? Any particular stories that you would like to share?
A. One must be modest but we have accomplished a lot in our first year of operation. Achievements could include our public seminar series, our cloth bag program that saw local stores significantly reduce the use of plastic bags and our involvement in many public events that wanted to “go” Zero Waste.
Two highlights that stand out for 2009 are related to advocacy.
1) During the months of October and November 2009 members of ZWS spoke to 15 municipal councils throughout Simcoe County. This concentrated effort was well received and started many Councils discussing how to put Zero Waste to work in their own municipalities
2) In November, County Council requested that Zero Waste Simcoe be a member of their Waste Management Strategy Steering Committee. This appointment gives ZWS an excellent opportunity to influence the County’s waste future.
Q. Any headaches? What have been the challenges, growing pains, and lessons so far?
Headaches are a part of life, but a useful part as most of them contain lessons.
Our greatest difficulty has been organizing the membership. ZWS, as a grassroots advocate and leader, must do the research, develop the positions, and promote them, while ensuring that the public is engaged every step of the way. It makes for a busy and sometimes chaotic environment. Identifying the human resources in our own membership and getting them involved in our many projects creates a lot of demands on a volunteer organization.
The greatest challenge that we face is the inertia of waste. Most of us have grown up in a consumer society that includes the right to throw waste away. It is difficult for average citizen to see how to change that lifestyle and grasp that their small contribution can have any impact. Without this change occurring in the minds and hearts of all citizens, Zero Waste will not be effective.
A. What’s next for ZWS ?
2010 will be a good year for ZWS.
Our pivotal event will be the strategy produced by the County Steering Committee in June 2010. A good strategy will have Zero Waste well on its way to becoming a fact of life in Simcoe County. A poor strategy would likely result in a five year set-back.
2010 will also be our year of action. ZWS is about to produce its 2010 action calendar. It will focus on making many local public events into Zero Waste events, and showing the public how they can all become part of the solution.
Q. Got any green idols, why them?
A. Stephen Ogden: Stephen is a local hero who has spent more than 10 years fighting the Site 41 landfill. He has sacrificed time, money and himself to get to the truth. For calm dogged perseverance, it would have to be Stephen.
Maude Barlow: Is and internationally respected advocate on the environment. Maude has visited the County and inspired many here by her well considered take-no-prisoners positions on water and the environment.
Al Gore: Has popularized the climate change issue and with it built an increasing sensitivity to the limitations of our planet.  While Al has not spoken directly on Zero Waste (that I am aware of) his message is in full alignment with the principles of Zero Waste and the need for action.
Q. Favourite colour?
Green would be too easy. Lets try blue – check our website.
A. One final message that you would like to share with thegreenpages.ca network.
Never underestimate the power of a good idea or the reach of a determined person.

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