Responses from Cameron Richardson, Supervisor of Environmental Sustainability & Climate Change, Town of Ajax
1) Tell us a bit about yourself and/or the Town of Ajax
Cameron received his Master of Science (M.Sc. – biology) from the University of Guelph and has been working in the public sector as a sustainability and conservation professional for over a decade. As Ajax’s Supervisor of Environmental Sustainability & Climate Change, his responsibilities include leading the development and implementation of complex corporate and community-wide policies, plans and strategies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainability and environmental policy/planning.
In the heart of Durham Region, the Town of Ajax is a progressive, diverse and vibrant waterfront community. Home to one of the fastest growing populations in the Greater Toronto Area, Ajax is a unique place where people, nature and history connect.
2) Why did you choose to partner with Mind Your Plastic?
The Town of Ajax is proud to partner with Mind Your Plastic to help achieve our common goals of connecting and collaborating to raise awareness with our staff, residents, businesses and community partners about the single-use plastic problem. Ajax wants to continue to provide leadership in sustainability, prioritize environmental health and commit to preventing plastic pollution.
3) Why do you think it’s important to change policies for plastic waste at events?
When planning events and celebrations, the convenience of single-use plastic service ware and décor items often outweighs the impact that these items have on the environment. With early planning, and a commitment to making a shift towards more reusable materials, we can all reduce our plastic waste while gathering and celebrating life’s special moments.
4) Why do you think it is important to start these policy initiatives at the municipal level versus at the federal level? Why does community action matter?
While the federal ban on six of the most common single-use plastics is a crucial first step, we know the power that local networks of neighbors and businesses can have to enact meaningful change. Together, these actions will help the environment AND build relationships and community pride.
5) There is a large focus within municipalities to solve problems with recycling, how much do you think we should be focusing on reduction or reusing as a way to tackle this issue?
Before we Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, we need to Rethink our daily choices and spending habits. By being thoughtful about limiting unnecessary purchases or buying items that can be more easily shared, repurposed, or repaired, we can support a circular economy where little to no waste is created in the first place. It is important to remember that how we choose to manage waste today impacts the future.
To continue to increase waste reduction and diversion in Ajax, the Town will continue to promote the Textile Diversion Program (launched in 2021) and the Corporate Ban on Single-Use Plastics. Both of these important initiatives focus on The 5Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Rethink and Recover) to help divert waste from landfill.
6) How has MYP changed your perspective on plastic reduction and elimination strategies?
MYP has shown how important it is to not just focus on a top-down or bottom-up approach to eliminating plastic pollution. Rather, it is important to focus on a holistic approach that both advocates and collaborates with all levels of government, producers, and recyclers to promote policy and regulation changes AND empowers youth and businesses to make meaningful changes by implementing real community actions.
7) In your opinion, what is most impactful about Mind Your Plastic’s approach?
The most impactful thing about Mind Your Plastic’s approach is their direct action programming that allows individuals and groups, especially students, to recognize their own power and ability to create meaningful change.
8) What challenges do you hope programs like PART can help you solve?
Programs and resources like the Plastic Awareness and Reduction Toolkit (PART) help solve the biggest challenge faced by those looking to make meaningful changes in their lives to reduce plastic pollution: “Where do I start?” The PART for Events helps guide you through the questions you need to ask yourself before even starting to plan a celebration or event. Some early choices and being aware of plastic alternatives, can virtually eliminate all plastic waste from events and celebrations.
9) Do you think perspectives on plastic elimination/plastic elimination strategies need to change?
Keeping Ajax clean, green, healthy and sustainable for future generations is of upmost importance. There is always room to grow and to shift perspectives as we move forward and look to our futures. Ajax prides itself on providing green community engagement and education opportunities, such as through our partnership with organizations like MYP, and we look forward to continuing to prioritize green practices and initiatives.
10) What role do you think businesses have in plastic reduction strategies?
Businesses, big and small, have an opportunity to be true sustainability leaders to both their staff members and customers. Businesses have the ability to influence and shift behaviours by demonstrating leadership in their daily operations and interactions with customers. Businesses can also shift market demand for high quality recycled materials through education, community engagement and innovation.
11) What does a world with more programs like Mind Your Plastic’s look like to you?
Public participation in addressing any environmental issue, including plastic waste, is based on the belief that those affected by decisions have a right to be involved in the decision-making process. Programs like Mind Your Plastic help inform, involve, and collaborate with all stakeholders so that they can participate in meaningful ways to help influence decisions. A world with more programs like Mind Your Plastic is a world where people feel empowered to make their communities stronger and sustainable.
12) Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to make a difference in their community?
Start small! Trying to eliminate plastic pollution overnight is daunting and unrealistic, especially given that some plastic items we utilize have no other alternatives. The good news is that we can start small and focus on easy changes that can be built on to create meaningful impacts. The first step is to educate ourselves and become more aware of the products we purchase. One of the best things you can do to make a difference in your community is to seek out like-minded individuals and work together to achieve your common goals.