Trash talkin' on CKNW raises interesting questions

Post by Daniel Fontaine in ,


trash pile
The McDougall family inspect their annual production of garbage

Last week during my weekly appearance on the Bill Good Show civic affairs panel, the switchboard lit up over a very contentious topic. What was the issue? Homelessness? High property taxes? Perhaps drug addiction? No, the issue was trash pickup.

Host Bill Good took a call from a someone living in Maple Ridge, a City of about 70,000 people, regarding the lack of garbage pickup. The woman on the other end of the phone complained she had no garbage pickup, and had to haul her trash to the local dump in her personal vehicle.

Immediately the switchboard lit up with a number of residents who lived mainly in Vancouver’s outlying suburbs with their tale of woes regarding the lack of regular garbage pickup. Most indicated they only had regular recycling service.

Needless to say, these callers stumped the panelists. Good, Bula and Green all live in Vancouver while I live in New Westminster where we all have regular garbage and recycling pickup.

It appears that some Metro Vancouver municipalities have decided to give their citizens the choice of bringing their garbage to the dump themselves, or choose from a list of private sector providers approved by the city.

One caller made a very interesting comment. He said he was saving money and producing less refuse by choosing a private contractor and pooling his garbage with his neighbours. If you believe him, he only produces a few bags of garbage every month, with the rest being recycled.

This whole discussion got me thinking. Has the convenience of free, weekly curbside garbage pickup actually facilitated the production of more garbage? In most municipalities in Metro Vancouver, you are still entitled to produce two large containers of garbage for free.

What if core cities like Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster etc... followed the path of the suburban municipalities and charged for every container of garbage produced?

Jim Green speculated what would happen is that people would likely begin dumping trash in dark alleys, and poor neighbourhoods. He cites the example of what happened to him when he lived in a poor neighbourhood in NYC during a garbage strike. Scores of people simply took their trash and dumped it in his neighbourhood with no regard for the health or security of local residents.

I have no doubt that Jim Green is right. A true user-pay garbage system might encourage some to reduce the amount of garbage they produce, but in dense urban areas it may produce some very negative side-effects.

So while a user-pay system may have some real appeal on the environmental front, it is an area we only venture in if we are prepared to live with the consequences. What do you think?


Vancouver's entire waste management system is a disgrace. I lived downtown Toronto for years and had a near waste free apartment because I had free endless recycling and organic waste pick up every week and garbage bags (only 1) were picked up every two weeks and at a cost. A bright orange tag had to be purchased and placed on a garbage bag to have it be picked up. There are no recycling bins on any corners here, and if you call those tiny rims that hang off the waste bins downtown any kind of excuse of a recycling system you should be ashamed. And if the argument is that it saves “binners” the disgrace of reaching for bottles out of a garbage can, then again shame on you for helping condone a livelihood that should be in no way acceptable by such a city of wealth and resource. The limit of materials in Vancouver as to what can be recycled is also an embarrassment. Toronto, St. John’s and many more Canadian cities have Vancouver beat by miles when it comes to waste management.

If I was City Caucus, I would look into our CoV Waste Management Department and the connections to the landfill and their lack of action for change as they plan on simply following Metro Vcr's lead in the next few years. Tourists and guests arrive in our city and walk around in disbelief as there is no where to recycle the paper and plastic portions of their Starbucks cup.

Please help put pressure on this issue.

I am shocked to learn that some outlying municipalities' residents are being forced to haul their own garbage or contract it out! Won't like it myself, but maybe we finally have to consider this option in Vancouver and other cities. With the costs not tucked-away in our taxes I believe the results must include significant waste reduction. People may not respond well to environmentally focused appeals for reduction, but they certainly wake up when it hits their wallets - positively or negatively.

I don't doubt Jim Green's secret dumping prophecy would have to be tackled seriously and creatively, but he references an experience in NYC during a 'garbage strike' rather than a carefully planned/implemented long-term program. How do the alleyways and hidden fringes look in Maple Ridge? Or in Toronto for that matter (re: Katie's response)? Someone surely knows how to make this work.

Recycling is certainly sub-par in Metro Vancouver, both what we can recylce and how to do so in public places. Katie's venom is well aimed. Unfortunatley, recycling is also a licence to super-consume (free newspapers literally shoved into totally ambivalent hands on every downtown corner, millions of 300ml water bottles tossed while fresh & free BC water is on-tap everywhere). Few people know how very little of it actually gets recycled even when they use their blue boxes, etc...! If they knew, they wouldn't even bother to recylce anymore... so let's not tell them and just begin dealing with the issue in the manner they expect we are.

It is a matter of pride in my household how little waste is created. Aware and conscientious people create a fraction of the average waste with little effort. Education can go a long way. Money will work on the rest of us.

Re: dumping in other neighborhoods...believe me, it already happens. Sometimes people will even dump their trash in their own lane, then call the Sanitation hotline claiming somebody illegally dumped it there.

We've removed litter cans from certain residential blocks as well because they were being stuffed with household garbage, presumably because people are too cheap/lazy to pay an extra $30 a year for a larger garbage tote.

I operate a weekly garbage collection company in Maple Ridge. I find most new people to the city like the option of paying for collection themselves. The comment I hear is 'you pay for what you need not an amount hidden in your taxes.' I find it makes people think twice about what they throw out and see the majority of my customers with only 1 bag (not can, bag) per week. The rest they recycle.

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