The plight of North Comise garbage: Part one of a five-part series
By Zema Luncher
In homes across North Comise County, the garbage bag is kept hidden from sight in cupboards or garages, unable to socialize with the families it lives with and treated as less than the family dog. After a week, it is stuffed into a bin and left for hours until it is hurled into a truck for a long, crowded journey to an even more crowded landfill. Here, it is dumped in piles with thousands of other bags, left to be torn apart by seagulls, crows and other scavengers, never knowing the taste of clean water or the smell of fresh air.
As a dump site protest in Teeny Township stretches on, only the garbage is punished.
“It’s just a devastatingly sad situation,” said garbage rights activist Gertrude Gellert. “You have this beautiful site in the country set aside for these bags, finally with an aquifer of clean water to drink and the local community is against it.”
The county bought the 21- hectare area, about two hours north of Toronto, in 1977 as a sanctuary for the garbage. But once the aquifer was discovered, anti-garbage feelings from the local community started to grow. Negative opinion has worsened since construction on the site started early this year.
Local politicians say they’re upset by the discrimination shown by their constituents towards the bags of garbage.
“Garbage is a population that continues to grow, not just here but all over Canada,” said Comise County Warden Tom Gudgeon. “Yet this important citizen of our country is left to rot in overcrowded conditions without fresh water and locals are not even willing to give them a space of their own and share their water with these deserving bags.”
Protestor’s fears that the bags will contaminate the groundwater are unfounded and prejudiced, Gudgeon added.
“That’s just bigoted, racist talk,” he said. “It’s based on the ridiculous and cruel stereotype of garbage being filthy.
“These bags are no more filthy than you or I.”
Gellert praised Gudgeon for standing up to the hatred shown by local families towards the garbage, saying it’s uplifting to see a decent space being set aside for this often badly treated group.
“The garbage will now have this big beautiful area to spread out and leak in,” she said. “It will have much more freedom than before to raise its children and access to fresh water like other Canadians.”
But some activists have criticized local politicians for planning to put a protective liner in the dump that would restrict the garbage’s movement and keep it from entering the groundwater system.
“Mr. Gudgeon says he is totally supportive of giving these bags a proper home and water, but then he asks experts to separate this group from the water in the construction plans,” said Grey Wilson, a leading advocate for garbage rights. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Yet groundwater experts say the liner won’t keep the garbage from the water for long and that it’s only a precaution.
“This liner was really only put in to make sure the garbage is responsible in its use of the groundwater,” said hydrologist Bill Blutte. “After two years, the lining breaks down anyway so the garbage will have full access to the groundwater system like all other animals and residents of the area.”
Others criticize the county for planning to remove water from the site. But Gudgeon said taking water is necessary in order to be able to build a suitable house for the garbage.
“Yes, the bags need clean water, but they also need a home that’s not going to flood,” he said.
Despite the protests which have slowed construction on the site, many bags of garbage in garages nearby remain optimistic.
“I’m very glad the politicians are being so supportive of us instead of caving in to pressure from other area residents,” one bag of garbage said. “Hopefully, the protests will end soon so our homes will be ready on time.”
With the promise of a proper house and resources, the bag said he was starting to feel a stronger sense of belonging to the community.
“I finally feel like a real Canadian,” the bag said.