Marathon day for staff as curbside kicks off

Confusion reigns as curbside program launches in Port McNeill.

  • Jun. 4, 2014 6:00 p.m.

PORT McNEILL—Local residents were not quite ready to kick the new recycling service to the curb. But the first day of the new curbside recycling program made for some confusion among customers — and a long shift for the pick-up crew.

The program, funded through a provincial initiative administered by a coalition of packaging producers, debuted in Port McNeill May 28. The program has led to an increase in materials now accepted for recycling on the North Island, but not all of those materials are acceptable in the curbside program — and an emphasis on educating the public on the changes led to long delays in last week’s collection.

“On the normal Wednesday (pick-up) side of town, the volume wasn’t anticipated,” said Sue Harvey, administrator for the Town of Port McNeill. “And we wanted to make sure we were correcting any non-recyclable items at the beginning. The crews were very thorough.”

The collection service is contracted through Fox’s Disposal, which also handles solid waste pick-up for the Town. As the first day of curbside recycling commenced, the Fox crews quickly fell behind as the picked through the material in the town-supplied containers to remove unacceptable material and fill out a list to leave with each homeowner describing what is and is not acceptable in the program.

“We have what we call the naughty list,” Harvey said. “The recurring problem people had was a lot of people put in plastic bags and refundable containers.”

Both items are eligible for recycling, along with glass and styrofoam. But none of them may be included in the curbside pick-up program, which is designed for paper, cardboard, rigid plastics and tin food cans. Other items, including styrofoam, plastic bags, glass and all refundable drink containers, can be taken to the collection depot at Island Foods or to Seven Mile Landfill and dropped at no charge.

As the crews sorted through the material placed at the curb by residents, they quickly fell behind schedule, prompting calls to the Town office asking when — and if — their bins were going to be collected.

“They had to pull out plastic bags and pull out the refundable,” Harvey said of the collection crews. “I think what happened is, when you take your recycling to the local depot, you took everything there. If it was refundable, you were just helping them out. But now we’re not collecting it (at the curbside).

“This was just one of the things we didn’t identify starting out.”

Harvey and Regional District of Mount Waddington operations manager Patrick Donaghy began work the following day on a letter to Port Hardy, which began its curbside service this week, “So we don’t have a repeat of this,” Harvey said.

It wasn’t all bad news, however. Once the delay was identified and shared through phone calls and social media posts, residents rallied behind the beleaguered collection crew, even bringing food and drink to share.

“The guys were so great, there was not one complaint about their effort,” said Harvey. “Other calls came when people found something left in their bucket with a “naughty” sticker; they called to clarify that.

“We expect those calls, and welcome them.”