Manitoba

Dump sees bump in trash as Winnipeggers cooped up this spring due to COVID-19

Spring is well underway and it looks like Winnipeggers are cleaning house, with 1,200-metric-tonnes more waste hitting the Brady Landfill in March 2020 compared to last year.

Brady Landfill saw 1,200-metric-tonnes more waste in March 2020 compared to March 2019, city says

A long line of vehicles lines up at the entrance to the Brady landfill in April. (John Einarson/CBC)

Spring is well underway and it looks like Winnipeggers cooped up at home due to coronavirus are cleaning house.

Last month there was an increase of about 1,200 metric tonnes of trash dropped off at the Brady Landfill compared to the same month last year, according to numbers provided by the city.

"We have seen an increase in both waste collected and vehicle traffic at Brady compared to spring of last year, which could be due to more people tackling home cleanup, renovations, or cooking and eating at home," said a city spokesperson.

More people are eating at home because restaurants and bars have been closed, or restricted to delivery or pickup options, since last month when Manitoba public health officials issued a series of sweeping closure orders to curb the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

"We're in an exceptional time in the midst of a pandemic and none of us have really experienced this before so obviously we're going to probably produce more waste than normal due to the disposable nature of gloves and masks and sanitizing wipes," said Kristen Malec, compost program co-ordinator with the Green Action Centre in Winnipeg.

Another source of the increase could be related to grocery shopping habits.

There's been rolling shortages of some essential items in stores due to panic buying around the world, and people may be using more plastic bags than usual, said Malec.

"Certain grocery stores are making it a little harder to use reusable bags and bins," she said.

"People don't want to go shopping as much, which is a good thing, so they may be stocking up more on groceries which can lead to food waste as well."

A couch hangs off the back end of a pickup truck in line at the Brady Landfill Monday afternoon. (John Einarson/CBC)

Food waste makes up about half of all residential waste in Winnipeg, said Malec, and there's a plan in the works that may help reduce that.

The city approved a curbside organic trash pickup initiative in December. The two-year pilot project is expected to launch later this year.

Winnipeg is one of the only major cities in Canada without such a program, said Malec.

It could help divert the amount of meat, bone, produce and other organics from emitting methane as it rots at the dump, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, when it comes to trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere.

"Pandemic or not, it's very crucial to have curbside organic pickup," said Malec. "That's a low-hanging fruit that we can really capitalize on."

Despite still being in the midst of a pandemic that has health officials constantly reminding people to stay home, there are some simple things Winnipeggers can do to cut down their waste footprint.

WATCH | Winnipeg landfill sees spring increase in trash amid COVID-19 pandemic

The City of Winnipeg said there's been more trash heading to the dump this spring compared to last. 2:04

Malec suggests meal planning for the week ahead before heading to the grocery store to help minimize the possibility of buying things you don't need or that could go to waste.

Focus on using up all those foods frozen away at the back of the freezer or collecting dust on the top shelf of the pantry, she said.

The Green Action Centre also has advice for people wishing to start composting, whether they live in a home or an apartment.

And if you haven't already, Malec recommends people consider buying or making their own reusable face masks.

She also acknowledges Winnipeggers may have things other than reducing waste on their minds right now.

"It is more challenging, for sure, to think of the environment as well, but if you can and you have an ability to continue to try and think about how to reduce your waste, I really try to stress that it's really important to continue to do that."

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

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Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. He is the Prairie rep for OutCBC. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.

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