New hope for eco-friendly aggregates

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

Green gravel on the horizon?

December 8th, 2011


Photo by Dan Zen

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Guest post by Blair Eveleigh, senior associate editor “Growth is the monster that needs to be fed,” says Caroline Schultz, the executive director of Ontario Nature, in a story in the latest issue of that organization’s magazine, ON Nature (by Ray Ford, a regular contributor to Cottage Life). She’s talking about our incessant appetite for aggregates, the gravel, stone, earth, clay, shale, and sand that we use to construct our thoroughfares, cities, and towns. It never stops; the maw never closes. And often the extraction of those raw materials causes much destruction in the parts of the province outside urban areas where aggregates are found, the countryside where cottagers like to spend their leisure time.

Here are a few figures:

• From 2000 to 2009, Ontario consumed about 179 million tonnes of aggregate per year, up from 148 million per year in the 1990s

• Consumption is projected to be 13 per cent higher over the next 20 years

• A 2,000-square-foot house requires about 250 tonnes of aggregate

• A kilometre of a two-lane highway needs about 18,000 tonnes

(Source: State of the Aggregate Resource in Ontario Study, 2010)

Now, some good news. After years at loggerheads, the Ontario Stone, Sand & Gravel Association and some of the industry’s staunchest opponents are working together to come up with criteria for a more ecologically friendly way of supplying our aggregate needs. Eventually, they may create a certification system for aggregates similar to what the Forest Stewardship Council does with wood products, and companies will be able to say their products meet specific environmental standards.

Would be nice to think someday, when you’re stuck on the highway behind a line of gravel trucks, that at least those trucks were filled with aggregate extracted in the safest, cleanest way possible. Someday.

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