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I was vacationing in Florida last month with my family.  We stayed in a vacation rental equipped with kitchenette so we could prepare some of our own meals.  We quickly learned after the first day, that recycling and managing waste were options not provided in the rental property.

Habits die hard, so I purposely separated the recycled materials from the traditional waste using the two waste receptacles provided.

By the end of the week our family had generated equal or slightly more bags of recycled products to waste. Unfortunately, the effort to source separate the waste was done in vain, because there was only one waste dumpster provided for the property where all refuse gets disposed. Looking back, this was the norm rather than the exception in Florida. The remarkable sidebar to this experience was the lack of visible litter on the streets, properties, beaches and tourist attractions in the area.

Tourism is likely one of the largest industries in Florida. Beauty and cleanliness contribute to a memorable travel experience. I observed many elderly, no doubt Canadian, citizens dressed in reflective orange vests picking up litter along the streets and boulevards in the communities they reside. The pride that exists within these communities continues to attract tourists which contribute to their economic prosperity.

I raise this point because litter continues to be a nuisance and challenge for local communities to manage. This region is blessed with one of the most progressive waste management programs in the country. Its programs are often benchmarked and adopted by municipalities looking to advance their own standards. Colchester expanded its reach recently by accepting Styrofoam and textile material in the recycle stream, further diverting a greater mass and volume of materials from the landfill to be reused or recycled.

The management of waste in this province is predominantly left to the municipalities to administer. No less than 27 programs exist within the province to guide residents and businesses on how to manage waste. Options to sort waste within established restaurants, fast-food outlets, service stations and other places where complimentary waste receptacles are provided is sometimes inconsistent. Even within the same branded outlets and community, there can be inconsistencies.

This leads to confusion for consumers, often leaving them to choose the easiest path of disposal. Businesses are then left to sort and manage the refuse at their expense and at their staffs’ risk.  Uniform waste management guidelines within the province would help contribute to a more informed citizen, potentially increasing the diversion of waste from landfills while reducing the visible litter.

Business, government and residents of the region have a mutual interest in managing our waste and reducing litter.  These efforts will allow us to live up to our potential by contributing to community pride, advancing the tourism experience which further contributes to our own economic prosperity. As we enter a new tourist season, prime with low fuel prices and a soft Canadian dollar, let’s work to present a clean and memorable tourist experience for the many travellers the province and region targets each year.  So, while we are out walking the streets and trails, or exploring many of the public spaces within the community, rather than stepping over, or ignoring an errant piece of litter, let’s make the effort to pick it up and dispose of it properly.  A small, yet impactful act.

Andrew Lake is the President of the Truro & Colchester Chamber of Commerce.