HELENA — In 2021, the Helena City Commission set an ambitious goal to reduce waste to landfills by 50% by 2040, with an interim goal of a 35% reduction by 2030.
Wednesday afternoon, Helena residents had the opportunity to see and comment on the recently released waste reduction plan in a virtual community event before it goes before the city commission on July 6.
“It's about us making the choice to instead of put that in a landfill, we find the opportunity to divert it,” says Jeremey Drake, Consultant for Zero Waste Associates.
Utilizing input from the community, the plan was formed into 3 phases.
Between 2022-2024, Phase 1 will be implemented which consists of community education and incentives.
Phase 2 takes place between 2025-2030 and includes plans for new infrastructure and services for recycling and composting to be implemented.
Phases 1 and 2 aim to reduce waste to the landfill by 35% by 2030.
Drake pointed out that with full participation from the city and community, Phase 3 will not be necessary and that waste reduction can even reach 60% by 2040. And in fact, the city of Helena is already over halfway to its goal of 50% waste reduction.
Phase 3 includes assessment and to-be-determined new policies such as possible ordinances.
“More than 80% of what's currently going in the trash is recyclable. It is compostable. It's reusable. And those things can be diverted today. The channels already exist in the community. And so, I think that education piece of helping people understand that the choices that they make tomorrow can actually help the community meet its goal is a really crucial message,” says Drake.
Drake also pointed out that roughly half of Helena’s waste stream comes from the commercial sector and from residential multifamily buildings. So, in addition to individual participation, the responsibility of waste management also sits on the shoulders of industry.