That photo was taken last year in Toronto, Ontario, Canada –
well before the ‘garbage’ strike which is underway there right now.
Christopher Hume (in this article) -
“At a time when a garbage strike has turned Toronto into a festering communal dumpsite, the connection between consumption and trash can be seen – and smelled – everywhere around us.”
Waste in and around a bin which had been taped shut by the city government -
(From one of Matthew Blackett’s posts on the Spacing Toronto blog.)
Mike Smith (in this article) -
The “strike opens our eyes to the awful levels of waste we produce.”
“They call it a work stoppage, but almost anyone can take it as an excuse to slow down and think.
At a local café, I drink coffee that’s arrived here in bean form from afar on a huge metal bird; I finish and put my cup in a bin, having no need ever to think of it again. It will simply… disappear.
Except, this time, it doesn’t. The cups, the wrappers, the refuse – the things we’ve been refusing to think about – sit there, reminding us that there are many wizards who work this magic for us, often behind the curtain of night. The breakdown of a machine proves the best way to observe how it works.”
“Even now, striking, garbage collectors are providing a sort of public service. As trash mounds grow in the rinks and pools of local parks, we are faced (nosed, specifically) with the reality of how much we throw away and the lives we lead in pursuit of the privilege to do so.”
“There’s a poetry to parks being chosen as dumps, a chance to see how connected things are.”
One of the temporary dumping “transfer station” sites in Toronto -
Chris Bilton (in this blog post) -
“The ongoing municipal workers’ strike makes it plain: even when it’s not in our parks, our garbage is a heap of trouble.”
“The garbage strike is a great and useful situation for the city to endure at this point in history. For good or ill, the residents who live near any of these transfer station parks now have some idea what it feels like to live in St. Thomas. Seeing actual bags full of our very own trash pile up in our parks is the first step in confronting a reality that often remains in the abstract or in policy limbo or in denial: we create far too much waste.”
“It seems like just last week, we were feeling pretty green about the vast reduction in plastic-bag use. Only a month into the city’s new plastic bag tax, Metro grocers … boasted a 70 per cent decrease in plastic-bag use as customers quickly switched to cloth in order to save those nickels. But even this one beacon of greenness in an increasingly waste-strewn city is nothing more than an environmentalist delusion. According to British enviro-columnist George Monbiot, plastic bags are the least of anyone’s worries — they don’t even account for a significant amount of domestic waste (in the UK, there is more saran wrap in the landfills than plastic bags) and produce very little in the way of carbon emissions.”
“Monbiot argues that plastic bags make a convenient scapegoat because taxing them is an easy solution for everyone.” “And judging by Toronto’s refuse-filled parks, it’s pretty clear that bagging our own groceries doesn’t translate into a noticeable decrease in waste.”
“[Cutting plastic bag usage] is merely a baby step that needs to be followed by great leaps in outlawing bottled water and drastically reducing the amount of packaging on everything. Start poking around in your local park if you want some proof.”
“As [government officials] scramble to open more transfer stations, I can think of at least one concrete wading pool that could hold a considerable pile of trash: Nathan Phillips Square. Sure it would be an ugly sight for tourists …, but it would serve as an appropriate symbol for all of us: that we too are failing diabolically in our unwillingness to recognize just how bad our junk habit has become.”
(Nathan Phillips Square is in front of Toronto’s city hall.)
These waste issues generally have been left out of mainstream press accounts of the labour dispute and the temporary waste disposal sites in Toronto. In public, if not in private, labour organizers and the municipal government have been taking the usual flow of waste in and from Toronto for granted, it seems. Almost no one (with much of a voice) has been calling for a radically different approach to Toronto’s ‘garbage.’
The standard language about a “garbage” strike in Toronto also implies that this ‘trash’ should be sent off to landfills (somewhere) –
and without much in the way of limitations on the quantity and types of waste disposed of in that way. Our ‘garbage’ is worse than useless, such language suggests. Of course we would throw this ‘trash’ away (while continuing to produce and purchase more of it).
Yet, we actually can re-use a lot of this ‘garbage’ — which often doesn’t have to be produced and consumed in the first place. We don’t need to drink water out of shoddy plastic bottles (which poison us), and various packaging could be eliminated as well.
Hanging on to durable products allows us to cut back on our waste streams.
In other words: we don’t have to produce and dispose of items as though they are or they soon will be mere ‘garbage.’
But a lot of people in Toronto clearly are very eager to continue sending away loads of that ‘garbage’ at their convenience — while, once again, ignoring the sanitation workers and landfills that these massive waste disposal operations entail.
In my experience — living not so far from Toronto for my entire life — people usually assume that waste collectors, landfill space, and other waste processing services always will be readily available and exploitable.
So far I have been focusing (implicitly) on landfill waste here; yet, there’s also a bigger picture that I should at least touch on -
‘Green’ bins and ‘recycling’ operations are less wasteful, but these collection and mechanical processing operations certainly do entail ecological trade-offs (as truck fuel is burned, for example); so other forms of waste are part of these ‘recycling’ and composting services. (Of course, the organic matter shipped around in ‘green’ bins could be kept around for residential compost instead.)
This article also is very relevant here -
Catherine Porter in The Toronto Star -
“Strike adds weight to garbage”
I found that piece worthwhile — even though the author places too much onus on private individuals and families, instead of discussing more collectivist approaches to reducing waste.
By the way -
My sister works tells me that tourists who have been visiting the gallery in Toronto — where she works — haven’t even mentioned the ‘garbage’ strike as they have chit-chatted with her. So I assume that the municipal government has been carefully sweeping waste out of areas that tourists tend to visit. Given the pursuit of tourism dollars, those areas of the city are bound to receive more municipal government attention.
(As this article indicates, Toronto’s mayor has spoken to potential tourists on CNN to try to avoid having the labour dispute in the city keep them away from Toronto.)