Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Mr Garbage: Bins Are More Esthetically Pleasing Than Sunny Porches, Flowers, and Lawns

CFTO evening news (oops early senior’s moment CTV Toronto News) did a story on the unsightly blue box tonight. Tom Hayes reported that since the blue bin program started 20 years ago, they’ve been increasing the amount of stuff that goes into the bin and so the bin had to grow. Um no. Here’s a thought: the frequency of pickup had to increase NOT decrease. The illogic of trying to get people to recycle more while decreasing frequency of pickup boggles my mind. But let’s continue.

As the person-on-the-street mentioned, she doesn’t even have to walk out her front door, she just has to look out her window, and there they are: big butt-ugly bins hogging the sidewalks and the visual line of sight. These bins are so big, they do not fit! As Hayes points out, they are changing the esthetics of the entire city. So much for aspiring to be once again Toronto the beautiful or the clean.

“I thought we cared what the city looks likes,” said the person on the street. Apparently not.

The fact that Councillors and city staff members actually thought that these bins would fit and not pose a safety hazard (more later) shows how utterly out of touch they are with the realities of city living when you can’t afford hired help and to rent storage areas. Or in Glenn De Baeremaeker’s case, be in love with garbage. After all, only someone who loves the sight and smells of garbage would actually come out with this stupid line:

“When we go to the garbage bin system, we’ll have a nice row lined up like soldiers of garbage bins, all basically the same shape size colour and function. It’ll be very efficient. And I think it’ll look actually better esthetically on most streets.”

And if you don’t like it, tough. “Get used to it,” he, Mr. Garbage, adds.

If you don’t believe me, that I quoted him exactly, check out the list of videos in the blue band on the mid-right side of the screen: Blue boxes an eyesore for some residents.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m fighting this Councillor’s arrogance. I looked out my window recently and saw the first line of soldiers hitting the sidewalks in my neighbourhood and wondered where I’d walk. You see, the bins take up half the sidewalk at least — and these are just the FIRST rollout, there is another set coming — which means I’m relegated to the edge of the sidewalk, not the safest place to be. In the winter between snow banks and bins, there would be nowhere to walk except the road…where the cars are.

But wait, it gets better. After the garbage men came through, flinging bins hither and thither, there was nowhere to walk. I could walk two steps, pick up bins, walk three steps, move bins, walk two steps, pick up bins, or I could walk on the road, keeping ears out for cars and get home in a timely manner. What about the poor mobility challenged? Finally the snow is gone, they can go out again, hurray. Oh but wait, it’s garbage day. Now the sidewalks are for bins, not humans, certainly not humans with canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters or buggies.

Get used to it, says Mr. Garbage. Get used to only being able to use our sidewalks 6 days out of 7; get used to having to use the roads as sidewalks in the winter time every garbage day; get used to a garbage esthetic because that is what Toronto is becoming unless you e-mail your Councillor and the Target70 team and tell them this is unacceptable. You won’t be alone. I understand the Target70 team can’t keep up with the irate calls from Torontonians to get rid of the butt-ugly bins and return to a saner method of pickup. Perhaps we should start flooding Mr. Garbage’s e-mail box too. After all, he should be at least half as harassed as we are with this new insane pickup method.

The Monstrous Blue Coming to You

Bob Hepburn in The Toronto Star wrote an excellent column on the ginormous, so-called “medium-sized” uglification campaign called the new Toronto blue bin. Excellent column. It reflected exactly my feelings on the matter. I have zero idea where I’m going to put my new, improved blue bin. It doesn’t fit anywhere except as a front-lawn statue to Toronto politicians’ projected garbage guilt.

Apparently, he’s received dozens and dozens of responses to his column and will be writing more. Others have written earlier about these impending (now here in much of the city) bins, but probably because folks couldn’t see them, they vented, then shrugged. But now that they’re here, folks are real upset. They can see what a boondoggle these bins are, how they do not address the garbage problem, and how they contribute to the deteriorating beauty of our city. There is a consensus here, and we can grab the momentum to bring sanity back to Toronto’s garbage policy, but only if we protest loudly and longly. No shrugging and willingly being run over by City Hall!

For many, the problem is where to put it, but for the most vulnerable in society, it’s how to use it. Those with upper body weakness won’t be able to open or close it; those with upper or lower body issues won’t be able to maneuvre it. Those with any kind of weakness or fatigue will find it particularly hard to get it up and down steps, and many, many homes in Toronto have steps, even homes in which people who require canes or wheelchairs live. And this is just bin #1. Ginormous bin #2 for garbage has yet to arrive. And what’s the betting ginormous bin #3 to replace the current green bin will soon follow? One Councillor is working on a way to use this huge medium-sized bin for both recyclables and garbage so that homeowners won’t have to store two, just one; however, if the bin don’t fit and is not usable by the most vulnerable in our society, even one is one too many.

The whole thing is bogus anyway. All garbage, whether straight trash, recyclables, or compostables, is a waste byproduct of our consumption. The more we consume, the more energy we use during manufacturing and sales, and the more garbage is produced, even if it is recyclable. Even worse, manufacturers are using much more packaging than they used to. Some have called for requiring retailers to remove the packaging at the cashier’s desk since so much of it is impossible to get into. I know I’ve ended up throwing out new products as I simply could not open them up. I have no idea how people with (bad) arthritis manage to break open some of these packages, especially those who live alone or with an infirm partner and can’t easily get help from a strong individual. Furthermore, not all plastic is recyclable, yet I bet most people have a hard time figuring out which is which — which can go in the blue box and which can go in the garbage. The whole sorting thing, which requires those calendars, challenges persons with developmental or mental difficulties especially, trying to understand them, never mind able-minded people who simply have a job and family to run.

And in the end, why do we as individuals need to be virtuous about sorting garbage from recycling? It’s not like we choose our products based on whether they’re recyclable or not. I bet only the fanatics and eco-nuts do that. The rest of us don’t. So why is it virtuous for us as individuals to recycle? To assuage our guilt for not making the “right” choice at the time of purchase?

Worse, all this work results only in homeowners’ garbage being sorted, no-one else’s. I’ve written extensively about garbage before, but perhaps the reality of these blue monstrosities will get Torontonians up in arms and moving into action.

If the city really wanted to tackle the garbage crisis, really wanted to be green, really wanted to clean up this city it would do three things:

  1. Build a facility that sorts garbage into recyclable, reusable, compostable, and trash. Then go back to picking up all garbage twice a week. The entire city would thus have their garbage sorted. This would also particularly help large families who per person may not produce much garbage but in aggregate do; it would help the infirm and disabled who can’t carry much weight and thus with more frequent pick-ups would have a manageable amount of garbage to put out. It would also get rid of that ridiculous calendar with those incomprehensible dos and don’ts. What a waste of paper that is!
  2. Build a clean, modern incinerator, like the ones in Sweden, to create electricity from trash. This would replace the nonrenewable fossil fuel power plant the idiotic Ontario government foisted upon us and allow Toronto to (a) use a renewable resource (trash) to (b) create electricity so that (c) in an event of a natural disaster, Toronto would have a local source of electricity generation that does not reduce our fossil fuels. This would also bring harmony back to our relationships with our neighbours by eradicating the need for landfill and trucks belching smoke down the highway.
  3. Band together with other municipalities to force manufacturers to reduce their packaging.
  4. Require retailers to remove said packaging at the store — businesses are far more likely to act than apathetic Torontonians in forcing manufacturers to get real about their ridiculous packaging.
  5. Recognize that garbage is garbage. One kind is not any more virtuous than another. It’s all waste from consumption. Thus allow people to use bags. In conjunction with item #1, that would mean our sidewalks would be free of clutter so that pedestrians aren’t forced to use the road even after the garbage is picked up, and bags can be tagged. Bag tags have proven effective in other cities in reducing waste and injuries among the sanitation workers. I’m not a big fan but somehow we need to reduce our overall waste production and foisting a humoungous bin on people ain’t going to do it.

Right now we need to protest this blue bin. Make your Councillor so uncomfortable, like the Riverdale residents Hepburn writes about in his column did when they protested, that they will reverse this stupid bin idea and go back to the drawing board. If you don’t know who your Councillor is, click here. And in the meantime refuse to use the new bin. Torontonians used to know how to do protests. Maybe we’ll learn all over again.

FLAP Makes Things Clear

FLAP volunteers look for and save migratory birds that have flown into buildings and fallen to the ground. This is an excellent video of the problem and their work. Sorry, the friggin’ thing just won’t embed. So here’s a link.

Earth Hour T.O. Style

Lights at St Patricks'Tomorrow, Saturday, March 29, at 8:00 pm ET, the lights will be going out in Toronto, and hopefully the computers and radios and TVs too, but not the fridges or freezers. That might be going a bit too far. This time city goes black, it will not be because of an unforeseen power disruption, but because Torontonians, including City Hall, will be deliberately turning off the lights as a gesture of solidarity against climate change.

I’m not sure how one can be against climate change — it’s happening — but more accurately to protest the lack of change to protect our climate and thus ourselves.

Earth Hour runs from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm, and to get in the mood, City Hall is hosting an acoustic concert, starting at 6:45 pm, with Nelly Furtado, the Philosopher Kings, and Fefe Dobson, which will end at lights back on: 9:00 pm. How does one hold a concert sans power, even an acoustic one where sound cannot project far in an open area? The answer is Bullfrog of course. They will be the power behind the musicians.

Musings on Taxes, Snow, and Garbage

Yesterday Global News Ontario reported that house sales are down dramatically in Toronto, yet have risen in a couple of 905 areas like Richmond Hill or Ajax. The thrust of the report was that the new land transfer tax is already affecting house sales in the 416 area, and then they ended it by saying maybe it was the weather because you couldn’t park anywhere in order to view houses.

Personally, I think it’s too early to tell. Year-over-year sales may be an indicator that the new Toronto land transfer tax is already chilling sales, yet the housing market doesn’t start heating up traditionally until the end of February or early spring. It’s usually a bit slow at this point in time, and so I’d be more interested in seeing what sales do in April, May, and June. Although I still believe doubling the land transfer tax for Toronto homes only was a dumb idea, I don’t think we can say “see, we told you so” yet.

It was nice that Toronto finally decided to shave the snow banks in my neighbourhood down to an easy-to- drive-onto height. And I totally get why side streets need to be plowed in the middle of the night, but could we possibly refrain from scaring the bejeesus out of us sound sleepers by not plowing the bare asphalt in a futile and very-late attempt to get rid of the tall snow-and-ice rut down the middle of the road. I thought Armageddon was descending upon me when this scraping thunder roared into my sleep, convincing me something nasty was coming right into my bedroom. And why was my street’s snow rut plowed several hundred times, and the rest of my neighbourhood left untouched?

And because I can’t leave this post without making at least one comment on Toronto’s stupid garbage policy, let me just note that I had to walk on the road the other day because the EMPTY bins were hogging the cleared part of the sidewalk. Now if the garbage had been put in bags, the sidewalk would have been free and clear for pedestrians to use once the garbage truck had trundled on by.

Birds in Toronto

Toronto is filled with birds of all colours — red, grey, brown, blue, pink, multi-colours, polka dots — and songs and styles. We’ve become familiar with the peregrine falcons that inhabit our downtown, but have you heard of the Red Poll or Yellow Breasted Chat? Members of the Toronto Bird Observatory have, and until one whiny couple screeched at city staff to force them out of High Park, they banded and tracked the birds flying through and staying in Toronto about once a week. You can see some of the multitude of birds that hide among us on their blog at The photo above is of a House Finch.

The Greying of Toronto | News | We don’t deserve this horrorchitecture

I loved the words Christopher Hume uses to describe the new structure finally arising out of the ashes of Yonge Street’s old has-been, city-expropriated architecture: “nasty dark grey bunker”, “galactic coal-carrier”, “lumpen excuse for a building”, “dead and inert”. And what is this lumpen grey bulky coal carrier called? “Time Life Square.” I had no idea. Did you?

I haven’t see it. But it doesn’t surprise me that a city that thinks cluttering up our sidewalks with garbage bins once a week and converting our neighbourhoods from flora to trash showcases would A-OK horrorchitecture. After all, a city hall that couldn’t care less about the downward spiral of our collective living space from being the cleanest and greenest on the continent to littered and stinky, is not going to care much about what the buildings look like. We really are dependent on individuals, corporations, and developers to ensure we have architecture that one can admire and that provokes (good) thought. For the most part, they’ve been letting us down.

Still, there have been a few shining lights, especially recently. The Crystal at the ROM is a masterpiece that adds to Avenue Road and Bloor, no matter whether one likes it or not. The new opera hall elevates the intellectual life of our city. And Citytv, now owned by Rogers, its iconic building stormed by CTV, may yet save Yonge and Dundas.

The Yonge-Dundas Square is attractive, in a urban, hard-edged way, until one looks to the east side and sees that rather messy temporary structure. It really brings the whole place down. How about erecting a permanent stage of beauty, like the shell at the CNE? (Perhaps Citytv with their penchant for taking over the area around their building may do just that.)

But no matter what a few good corporations do, somehow the citizens of Toronto are going to have to find their moxie and counter the efforts of city hall to turn our urban oasis into a grey dump.

Hogtown Once More | GTA | Bigger bins no small problem

My response to that article was succinct and not for public consumption. Living in this city is becoming more exhausting with each pronouncement by city council. The reason why people look to the past and sigh that life was simpler back then was that life was less regulated, less stressed by government, less infantalized, freer. I’m sure government started imposing rules and regulations before I was born, but I swear they’ve accelerated like a druggie on a logarithmic curve. Take garbage (yes, please, take my garbage!). Back in the bad old simpler days, everyone put out all their garbage in whatever receptacle they wanted. On Wednesdays huge items that didn’t fit in bags or bins were picked up. Twice a week everything — that’s right folks EVERYTHING — was picked up. The streets were clean, gardens were gardens, and people didn’t waste time and brain power sorting their garbage. Everyone could participate, no matter how infirm or poor or overworked because bags are lighter than bins, brain power wasn’t required as everything went into one bag or bin and everything went out the same day of the week, the poor and overworked didn’t have to spend what adds up to hour or hours each week sorting and hauling out the garbage. For the infirm, poor, and overworked, garbage was quick and easy and even they could participate. Then recycling was introduced.

We Have SNOW!

OK, perhaps a bit over excited about the re-emergence of seasonal weather. Shovel season is sort of here, which is a mixed blessing. Exercise vs. Annoyance. Yes December is looking like DECEMBER but it will get nasty today. The snow wont last long so the “scrooge” contingent wins.

Our yo-yo above and below freezing is going to mean crazy conditions. Freezing rain in the forecast so it wont be a fun night tonight. Trust me freezing rain is far worse than snow but as things sit right now we are in for a lot more rain.

New Hydro Euphemisms to Increase Your Bill

Have you looked at your Toronto Hydro bill recently?

There’s a new charge on it called the “Lost Revenue Adjustment Charge.” Gotta love that euphemism. It’s code for we’re charging you for conserving energy.

First they complain we’re energy hogs and we’re about to crash the entire grid, then they say they won’t be able to keep up with future demand as the province has been too slow in replacing aging generators, then they whine about our conservation efforts and get the bureaucrats to devise a brand-new charge while, at the same time, reduce electricity rates.

Next new charge, right below that one, is one called the “Shared Savings Charge.” Shared. Isn’t that a feel-good word meaning “you pay sucker!” That one is higher than the LRAC. And apparently by charging me for nothing to do with electricity generation or distribution they’re giving my electricity distributor an incentive to conserve. Huh? I thought the LRAC was their incentive. Besides, what about my incentive? My mistake. Hydro deserves it more.

It gets better. If you decided to ignore those pesky electricity retailers, then Hydro is charging you 25 cents per 30 days for being so lackadaisical; on top of that, they’ve discovered those smart meters are expensive and are passing the cost on to you. (It must be because unlike it taking 10 Hydro guys to wire up your house, it takes 20 to plunk on a smart meter.) And the Bank of Canada says there’s hardly any inflation.

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