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Alma Mater Society Announces Opposition to One-Garbage Bag Policy

July 27, 2012

KINGSTON, ON – The Alma Mater Society (AMS) is publically calling for a rejection of Kingston’s proposed One-Garbage Bag policy. This policy, which would limit garbage bag disposal to one bag, per week, per household, regardless of the number of tenants, is well-intentioned and properly aimed. However, this policy remains deeply flawed in its practical considerations, its awareness initiatives, and the undue burden it places on students, who often live in high-density housing. Given these pitfalls and the negative impact this policy will have on students, the AMS is calling on City Council members to vote against the policy upon its third reading.

The first reading of this policy was passed at Kingston City Council on July 17th  by a vote of 7-6.  A third reading, on August 14th, will provide Council Members with an opportunity to reject or affirm this proposal. After discussing the issue over the past two weeks, AMS Council voted to make public the AMS’ call for a rejection of this by-law. There are several failings in the City’s proposal, with both the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainability and the Municipal Affairs Commissioner expressing serious grievances in regards to this policy.

“The AMS agrees with the spirit of this motion – creating more sustainable and livable cities – but we see serious problems in its implementation, and ultimately feel that these issues will undermine any environmental benefits. All initiatives aimed at improving sustainability must be combined with comprehensive awareness and consultation, or else the actors involved in that change will not follow through. In this case, the city is implementing a policy during the first week of classes, with the awareness campaigns finishing before students arrive for the fall semester. Furthermore, because in many cases this is a group decision – whole houses, not just individuals, must lower their garbage output – the burden of consultation and awareness is even higher,” says Ty Greene, Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainability. “While these policies can be effective, it is often the process that leads to true sustainability, not just the appearance of sustainability”.

“Another factor to consider in this case is the unbalanced impact this policy will have on students,” stated Troy Sherman, Municipal Affairs Commissioner. “Whereas it may be possible for parents in a family of four to regulate their household waste, this is much more difficult in the University District. Students face unique challenges in regulating individual household actions – especially when many houses have over 5 tenants. This policy will penalize all members of a household for individual decisions. Many Queen’s students already struggle with high costs of living and tuition. Not only is it financially problematic to ask students to pay even more, but the intended ‘behavioural shifts’ envisioned by this policy are unrealistic. We see this as unacceptable and unrealistic, and will be working with City Council to find an alternative route to a more sustainable Kingston.”

Please direct all media inquiries to Taylor Mann, AMS Communications Officer, at comm@ams.queensu.ca or (613) 533-6000 x 75850.