HELENA — Helena city leaders will consider next week whether to adopt a new conservation goal: preventing more solid waste from ending up in the landfill.
Currently, the city estimates about 20% of the solid waste it manages is diverted – meaning it is recycled, composted or otherwise kept out of the landfill. On Monday, the Helena City Commission will discuss a resolution endorsed by the Citizen Conservation Board, which would call for the city to increase that percentage to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040.
“It’s non-binding, it’s not a law, but it does nonetheless show support and a commitment by the city on helping to reduce the waste stream,” said Denise Roth Barber, who co-chairs the Citizen Conservation Board’s Waste Committee, along with Ann Brodsky.
The resolution also calls for the city to put together a strategic plan over the 18 months on how to meet those goals.
In 2009, Helena’s Climate Change Task Force recommended the city aim to divert 35% of solid waste by 2020 – at that time, a nationwide goal. While the U.S. met that goal, Helena fell short. Brodsky said that shows the importance of creating a clear plan on how to improve waste diversion. The Conservation Board is asking the city to budget $60,000 to hire a consultant.
“We’ve had a lot of ideas that have been presented to us,” said Brodsky. “That’s why we would like the city to, in a concerted way, put together a strategic plan, looking at costs, benefits, et cetera.”
Supporters of the resolution say landfills and other waste disposal are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. They say waste diversion is one area where local efforts can actually make a big impact on the environment.
The city’s growth policy already supports efforts to limit waste, recommending “reducing, reusing, recycling and composting” before sending things to the landfill. Barber said the city can take additional steps, but one of the most important things will be educating the public on what they can do.
“The good news is that a lot of this is going to be on the consumer and each of us as residents, and what can we do as individuals to reduce the amount of material that we have to deal with after we’re done with it in the first place,” she said.
The commission will consider the resolution at their regular meeting Monday night. The meeting begins at 6 p.m., and the public can participate through Zoom. The meeting link and agenda are available here.