Dunham mulls diaper subsidy

By Ruby Irene Pratka – Local Journalism Initiative

The town of Dunham may soon join Sherbrooke and Cowansville in instituting a subsidy program to encourage residents to buy reusable personal care products.

The town council tabled a bill to that effect at the Jan. 11 council meeting. The measure, proposed by Coun. Jules Brunelle-Marineau, would set aside a fund to reimburse residents who buy reusable diapers, menstrual products or incontinence products. Council will vote on the final bylaw on Feb. 8.

“The bylaw has arisen from a proposal made by Comité Environnement Dunham about a year ago,” explained Dunham mayor Pierre Janecek, adding that councillors spoke with their counterparts in Cowansville and Bedford to “harmonize…with what is already being done in our neighbouring municipalities.”

“If the bylaw is adopted, the plan is to provide financial assistance up to 50 per cent of the retail cost of a minimum of 15 new or used reusable diapers, up to a maximum amount of $200 per child aged 2 and under per year, and of up to 50 per cent of the retail cost of reusable incontinence products or feminine hygiene products up to a maximum amount of $200 per adult per year…while the budgetary allocation lasts,” says Janecek. He adds that a resident will be able to request assistance only once per year, and subsidies will be given to eligible applicants on a first-come-first-served basis.

“Citizens won’t be required to sign up for this project, but it…will serve as an incentive for the purchase of reusable products,” says Janecek. “It’s in the public interest to promote sustainable development, to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and the costs associated with waste removal, and favour reuse and recycling.”

Cowansville and Sherbrooke both launched similar programs last year.

“Sherbrooke City Council wanted to take direct action to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills,,” says Ingrid Dubuc, director of the environment office at the Ville de Sherbrooke. “For example, an average baby will go through 3700 diapers, which ordinarily would go straight into a landfill…and with reusable diapers, you avoid that.” She says the program received 374 admissible requests for subsidies in its first seven months of existence; the cost to the city was $25,000 for the first six months of the project.

In Sherbrooke, applicants need to fill out a form, provide proof of residence and proof of purchase of the products in question, Dubuc explains. Low-income residents are eligible for a 75 per cent subsidy up to a total of $200, and higher-income residents have a ceiling of $150.

“The fact that we’ve had 374 requests in the last year shows the enthusiasm that has built up for this project, and shows that nearly 400 people are ready to take concrete steps toward reducing waste,” says Dubuc. “I would really like to see the amount we spent on that program vis-à-vis the amount that was saved in landfill costs.” The Sherbrooke project has been renewed for 2022.

Dunham town council will debate the proposed bylaw at the Feb. 8 council meeting, which will be broadcast live on the Ville de Dunham Facebook page at 7:30 p.m.. Dunham residents who have questions for council on this or any other issue can email info@ville.dunham.qc.ca prior to the council meeting.

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