Much like an addict, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

We are addicted to consumerism. We like to buy things, hold them for a while and then throw them away. Never, ever thinking that once it has been released it would ever darken our doorstep again. Dust in the wind… as it were.

Well that wind is howling and it’s blown a big dirty trash bag directly in the face of South Dundas residents.

It is important to note that this is not a unique problem to this municipality, but rather the most poignant example of short-sighted thinking and the wasteful nature of consumerism that has come home to roost.

It’s a global problem that is ready to explode and unfortunately South Dundas finds themselves directly in the blast zone.

This edition of council saw a thorn and hasn’t dithered about how it got there, but instead decided to yank it out and plod on – not that there is much choice in the matter.

The problems are many, the costs to remedy them are high and time is short. It is simply the result of sloppiness, mismanagement and plain old negligence.

The reality is this generation will pay for yesterday’s ambivalence.

This is not to lay blame at the feet of those that came before. They simply didn’t know any better. We do now.

A pragmatic approach must be taken to ensure that future generations won’t suffer the same fate and be left holding the trash bag.

There is no easy way out and it will cost a substantial amount of money, but it must be spent thoughtfully and with purpose – not the mindless laziness that created the problem in the first place.

So what to do next? The quick answer seems to be an expansion, but that is not a solution. It is simply putting a band-aid on a festering sore that won’t go away until the root of the problem is addressed, our consumer habits.

Some will argue that waste is simply a fact of life. While that may be true, it need not be looked at as such.

Our landfills are simply an organized pile of human thoughtlessness. Properly sorted, processed and disposed of, our landfills could be looked at more as a resource and in some cases, a treasure trove of untapped potential. Approaching it as a business and a vital guardian of our environment would be a good start.

This shift in thinking was first presented by Gabriel Lefebvre, the former landfill supervisor, and it was publicly acknowledged by Mayor Steven Byvelds. A feather in Lefebvre’s cap to be sure, but also a reminder that garbage requires a specialized approach.

Jeff Hyndman, director of public works, currently manages the landfill, but he is not educated enough, experienced enough or available to work in a full-time capacity for something that needs to be diligently managed down to the finite details. Expecting him to carry this burden would be unfair and unproductive.

Lefebvre need not be hired back, but a person of his qualifications, at the very least, should be.

So, is an expansion the right answer? No, but it is the right answer right now if done properly and beyond the requirements set forth by a provincial government that ignores environmental stewardship in the name of profit and cutting red tape.

The numbers are gaudy, but it should be remembered that this is the cost of our throwaway society.

The challenge before us is that we must not look at this as an albatross around our necks. This is the time to innovate.

Just like the Seaway expansion defined a generation and left an indelible mark on the villages, and the world as a whole, so too can a re-imagination of how we approach waste. To create a solution, through all the quagmires and financial landmines, that works for the people, the environment and the bottom line is not only possible, but would be a monumental achievement.

Imagine that. The human mind, which is programmed to create monuments to our existence, could be used to create a legacy that leaves no trace of our wastefulness behind.

Should we not heed that call? Recognize that our habits have consequences and can’t simply be buried and forgotten. Then this is truly a waste and we will find ourselves back here again in the future.

– T.S.