When Christina Szurlej saw the dumpster outside of her apartment overflowing with waste that could have been recycled, she’d had enough.
Szurlej, a professor at St. Thomas University, decided to use her frustration with the lack of curbside recycling at apartment buildings in Fredericton to create a project for her human rights capstone seminar class.
“I identified it as a problem and thought it was something that the capstone seminar students and I could reasonably solve and address through a human rights advocacy campaign,” Szurlej said.
From that, Come and Get ‘Em Fredericton was born. The campaign is only a few weeks old, but the petition already has received 818 signatures as of Nov. 5.
Szurlej’s students each came up with a human rights advocacy proposal, from their own research and ideas. Their work was then pooled and the best ideas were selected from each.
The project consists of a social media campaign, a change.org petition, a letter to city council and a press release.
“The letter to city council and press release will be submitted once we reach 1,000 signatures,” Szurlej said.
Szurlej said other than the environmental rights to life, clean water and air, there is another human rights component to the project.
“Treating those who live in multi-unit residential buildings differently than wealthier homeowners could actually amount to discrimination under the New Brunswick Human Rights Act, because social condition is a prohibited ground for discrimination,” Szurlej said.
Fourth-year human rights student Rachel Slipp said her favourite part of getting the petition out is seeing people’s comments as to why they signed.
“Some people didn’t even realize this was an issue. I mean, if you live in a home and have never lived in an apartment in Fredericton you might not realize that the people who live in apartments don’t have the same access to recycling as you do,” she said.
Slipp said she did a lot of research on recycling programs in other capital cities in Canada.
“In Halifax they don’t offer curbside recycling pickup to apartment buildings, but it’s actually against the law for there not be recycling facilities at each building,” she said.
“In Toronto they do offer curbside recycling collection for multi-unit buildings, and they even have an incentive … There’s a limit on how much garbage you can have per building or per resident and if you go over you have to pay more money, but there is no limit on how much recycling you can have.”
Another fourth-year student in the class, Catherine Lansley, helped design the social media campaign.
“We are calling out for public support via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as advertising for our petition online,” she said.
Lansley also said the class is reaching out to legislators and community groups within the city.
Szurlej said the goal of the project is to get the city to commit to a timeline for implementing curbside recycling for multi-unit buildings, and to teach students transferable skills for human rights advocacy.
Szurlej, Lansley and third-year Rachelle Patrick presented to the mayor’s working committee on community and post-secondary relations on Nov. 3. Their presentation was complemented by a presentation from Stephen Hartley of Fredericton’s engineering department explaining the current state of recycling in the city.
Hartley said multi-unit residential buildings became ineligible for city curbside pickup between 2005 and 2007 after they were categorized as businesses rather than residences. He also said landlord’s concerns about the loss of space and abuse of the program were factors against curbside recycling at apartments.
City councillor and chair of the committee Greg Ericson said the city has been aware recycling for apartments is something Frederictonians want. However, finding a cost-effective program that actually has a positive environmental impact has been difficult.
“Just because they have a program doesn’t mean it delivers a green result,” he said.
Ericson also mentioned that in many other cities, such as Halifax and Toronto, there is a mandate for recycling programs from the provincial government. Ericson said N.B.’s government does not have a provincial mandate forcing cities to recycle, which leads to vast differences in recycling from city to city.
“Until that happens the only carrots the city has is built within the program itself,” he said.
At the city level, Ericson said they are waiting for a few staff reports to understand how an updated recycling program would best work in Fredericton.
Come and Get ‘Em Fredericton is continuing to gather community support through their petition.
It was announced on Nov. 7 that Fredericton will introduce an apartment recycling pilot project in 2018 with the possibility of full apartment recycling by 2019.