By: Nicole Latimer, Solid Waste Program Coordinator – Town of Port Hawkesbury
Can you tell us a little bit about the Town of Port Hawkesbury and the project you are working on?
The Town of Port Hawkesbury is located on the southwestern end of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. Home to over 3,000 residents, the town acts as a major service centre for the Strait area.
I was hired as the town’s Solid Waste Program Coordinator to help roll out their green cart program and implement several changes to their solid waste management bylaw. These changes, which include the switch from black to clear garbage bags, a bi-weekly collection schedule and the introduction of a curbside green cart organics program, help bring Port Hawkesbury in line with over 90% of the province of Nova Scotia, who already have access to municipal green cart collection for organics. When food waste ends up in the landfill it is forced to decompose anaerobically – in the absence of oxygen. This process produces methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas that is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. According to the Government of Canada, organic and kitchen waste makes up about 30% of the waste disposed of by Canadian households. I am working to educate Town residents on the importance of refusing, reducing, reusing and recycling in order to reduce the Town’s environmental impact.
What sparked your interest in the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program?
Although I was very passionate about recycling and the environment from a young age, it was never clear to me exactly which career path I wished to pursue. As I worked toward my undergraduate degree in Physics with a minor in Earth Science at Saint Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia it became clear I wanted to work in the environmental sector. My goal is to find a career that allows me to combine the technical skills I gained from my degree with my passion for the environment. When I heard about the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program, I was excited about the opportunity to be exposed to so many different environmental jobs across Canada and start my career in the environmental sector.
What has been your favourite part of working with the Town of Port Hawkesbury?
My favourite part of working at the Town of Port Hawkesbury has been seeing the effects of my work firsthand. After every green cart collection, the Guysborough Waste Management Facility provides me with the weight of our waste and organics in tonnes. This allows me to see exactly how much organic waste we are diverting from the landfill. It feels good to know I am doing important work and making a real difference. I look forward to watching the organic weight increase with each collection as residents are educated on how to properly sort their waste and the importance of composting organics, refusing plastics and reducing overall waste.
How has the work that you are doing influenced your interest/knowledge of the environmental sector and/or clean technology?
The work that I am doing with the Town of Port Hawkesbury has opened my eyes to our global waste problem. I feel most people are so separated from their waste; they don’t really think about what happens to their waste after they throw it away. Touring your local landfill is a great way to see firsthand how much waste your town/city is producing. This role has forced me to be more mindful of my waste and has made me a more environmentally conscious person. After being made aware of the overwhelming garbage we produce in Canada and worldwide, I am even more interested in working in the environmental sector. Waste is a big problem, for us and for future generations, one that will not go away on its own. We have polluted from the deepest point in the ocean, 10,972 meters into Mariana’s Trench to just below the summit of Mount Everest, 8,440 meters above sea level. It is clear we need to act now to change the way we dispose of our waste and demand companies change the way products are produced.
How has this experience helped you shape and/or work towards your career goals?
My experience with the Town of Port Hawkesbury has helped me widen my professional skill set. While I have previous experience in customer service roles, working in a municipal setting and dealing with the public in that regard was a completely new experience for me. This position has put me in the public eye more than any job has before, and I ended up being seen as the face of the green cart program, through interviews with local radio stations regarding the green carts and presenting updates on my work at Town meetings. It’s been great to gain experience working in municipal government
To learn more about the Clean Leadership Professional Internship program visit our webpage.