Idling vehicles remain an issue

HRM council has voted to change its focus from air to water pollution, and some people, like Jen Powley of the Ecology Action Centre, doesn’t like the smell of this.

By Ben DuPlessis

HRM council has voted to change its focus from air to water pollution, and some people, like Jen Powley, don’t like the smell of this.

Powley, HRM coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, says the issue of idling vehicles and their effect on air quality is far too often ignored in favour of other problems.

“I think it needs to be higher on their radar; it doesn’t seem like anything is actually being done. Even though we have the provincial item in place,” says Powley, “there doesn’t seem to be anyone enforcing it, nor does there seem to be any repercussion for going against it.

“Nothing is happening.”

Idling vehicles


The NDP provincial government passed an anti-idling act in 2010, but it only applies to vehicles either operated by the government or with more than 17 seats.  This meant bus companies were required to implement anti-idling policies.

The act came into effect on Oct 1, 2011, although bus drivers continue to idle their vehicles in winter months to keep warm.

The bylaw that applies to non-government vehicles or buses is actually an anti-noise bylaw. It says a driver can’t idle for more than five minutes.

“The bylaw doesn’t say it’s bad for air quality, it simply says it’s annoying to other people,” says Powley.

“It’s great that the legislation is there, then you need enforcement. The other part is that you need education and behaviour change. You need to get people to modify their behaviour, get them to understand why it’s important to change and make it simple.”

Last year, council debated a new anti-idling bylaw, also aimed at stopping municipal government vehicles from parking with a puttering engine.

Powley says a lot of people are confused about idling. After ten seconds of idling your car, she says, it’s more efficient to turn it off and restart it.

She says the bottom line is, with rising fuel prices, you’ll save more money if you stop idling.

And for those who idle their cars to stay warm in the winter, Powley has a suggestion.

“Maybe, in today’s world, we need to start thinking about more than our superficial warmth. Maybe we need to start dressing for the weather.

“We’re pretty used to the convenience of getting into a warm car. In fact, maybe we should buy the entire city a pair of gloves. Maybe mittens.” 

HRM council suggests dropping refundable bottle program

If Nova Scotia wants to avoid losing money, it has a choice: Pay more at the checkout, or throw out the refundable bottle and can system.

By Ben DuPlessis

John Gray waits outside of the Clifton Recycling Centre to trade in his night's work. (Ben DuPlessis photo)

If Nova Scotia wants to avoid losing money, it has a choice: Pay more at the checkout, or throw out the refundable bottle and can system.

By 2016, Nova Scotia’s system for refundable drink containers, run by the Resource Recovery Fund Board, will start losing money. The province is looking for solutions to the problem. They asked HRM council for some ideas. Councillors had one that could, by their estimate, make the RRFB $3 million, instead of losing $1 million.

“They’re saying it’s duplication of collection efforts. Enviro-Depots are out there doing one thing,” said Councillor David Hendsbee, “collecting bottles and cans, and then there are guys picking it up at curbside and they just want to eliminate one of those collection streams; I’m saying no, they should not do that.”

Hendsbee was the only councillor to vote against a motion to have the mayor send a letter to the province suggesting the refundable program be removed. It would reduce the ten-cent deposit now paid for cans and bottles to five cents. This would make curbside collection the only way to recycle, without any deposit money coming back for returns.

“I just felt that it was a road the municipality need not go down. The RRFB will have to fix its own problems, and if the province wants to adjust its deposit on refundables, let the province decide that. I think the Enviro-Depots are working just fine,” Hendsbee said.

Taking the fun out of fundraising

The change wouldn’t make much of a difference to most consumers. It would mean not having to go through the trouble of taking bottles to a bottle depot to get back half of the deposit money. The RRFB is in talks with the province to figure out a way to stay in the black.

“There are some challenges in the system, we need to take a look at what can be done, but overall the system’s a well-performing one that provides a lot of benefit to Nova Scotians,” said Jeff MacCallum, CEO of the RRFB.

“The return system is very high-performing; we’ve got over an 80 per cent return rate for the beverage containers. There are also an awful lot of social and economic benefits from that system. You’ve got a depot collection network, which is 82 private businesses, their employees, as well as the truck drivers and the processor in Amherst.”

MacCallum said the bottles help support sports teams, charities and people with low incomes. The people pushing carts weighed down by bags and bags of refundables would have to look somewhere else for money.

Out of the job

John Gray has been collecting bottles on and off for the last five years. Every second night—starting at midnight until the job is done—he pushes a cart through Halifax, gathering bottles and cans from the curbside and bringing them to bottle depots.

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John Gray collects bottles three nights a week.

“It’s a great way to have some kind of an income if they can’t find work or make ends meet. Getting rid of it, I think, could be drastic. It could be a shock to this area, where so many people are dependent on it. I don’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have that for an income. It could be pretty rough,” Gray said.

The decision is ultimately up to the province. It’s suggested raising the price paid for deposit instead of dropping refundables altogether.