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?