I would like to address the concerns raised by Alison Flannigan and Teresa Williams (Letters, North Island Gazette, Apr. 17) and provide more information about the new recycling program.
Their issues are probably ones that have been on the minds of many others who have not written to the Gazette so we all owe them thanks for putting these questions in the spotlight.
Alison’s concerns focus on a perceived lack of communication with the public in how decisions were made, and how the new program will be delivered. More specifically, around the garbage pickup being every two weeks, causing an increase in bears/ rodents and risk to public health. She also asked about blue plastic recycling boxes.
Public consultation, communication, and decisions about recycling and garbage collection were made openly at public town council and community meetings where bylaws were debated before being passed, over the past two years, with a heavy emphasis in the summer of 2013. In addition, several articles have been written in the Gazette. These meetings were and continue to be open and welcoming to the public.
Regarding the request for blue plastic boxes, I can say both yes and no. Yes, municipalities and towns are providing containers, but no, they are not blue. Port McNeill and Coal Harbour have ordered recycling containers for all of the households. The District Port Hardy is doing something similar but did so independently, so the District needs to be contacted directly about its specific plans. The containers are 77-litre Rubbermaid garbage cans with snap-on lids. The classic open “Blue Box” containers unfortunately are expensive and would litter neighbourhoods with debris, given our typical wind and rain. The snap-down blue-box containers are definitely too expensive for local governments to purchase, but households can always purchase and use them instead if they wish. Local governments also decided against wheeled large totes, also due to their expense, and the concern hinges and wheels would inevitably break.
Regarding the two-week pickup, if you find your curbside recyclables are too much for a single 77-litre container, put the extra in other containers — but they need to be secure from the rain and wind. Please note that plastic bags will be left at your curbside and quite likely ripped open.
The Regional District is aiming to hand-deliver Coal Harbour’s bins starting this weekend if possible.
Both Teresa and Allison raised concerns about bears and disease bearing rodents being attracted more to the smell/volume of garbage that sits for two weeks instead of one week. A number of people have raised this issue to me as well, and we have thought this through. First I would like to remind readers that the decisions to pick up every other week are made by each community. In general, the two-week schedule means the services are delivered without raising municipal fees, since there will still be a pickup of disposed materials once a week. We need to work with the fact that it is true, some of our garbage stinks, is unsanitary and can attract animals
In addition to not storing garbage outside, where it is accessible to wildlife I advise following a simple rule when dealing with household waste. For curbside garbage containers, food waste and items like diapers should be placed in a plastic container with a snap on lid when put on curbside If this garbage container is also fairly air-tight, then the smell is relatively contained and sitting one week or two likely makes little difference to a bear or rat passing by. For an unusually large size of hunting/food waste, please continue to take it to your local transfer station or 7-mile landfill and don’t dump near your community as it attracts bears and cougars
For indoor diaper waste or compostables, I recommend using a very airtight container before moving it to your compost or garbage. I know from personal experience this works, having changed plenty of diapers in the past and diverting food waste from the waste stream for years. If you can manage the problem materials in this manner and keep them indoors, your wildlife issues should be avoided. I’m also confident that North Islanders will cope as the residents of Malcolm Island have had garbage collection every two weeks for the past three years and it is working.
Finally regarding the issue about increased back roads dumping. This is a good point and I share your concern. I have actively participated in past back-road cleanup efforts, so it is an issue close to me. In fact, we are organizing another effort for May 31. There is a simple truth regarding this issue: Some people are irresponsible and don’t care about the environment, their neighbours, or the law and dump their garbage in the woods. Fortunately this act represents a very small percentage of North Islanders. The Regional District could slash tipping fees and keep the landfill open 24/7 but there are some people who will dump irregardless. I know this because I see appliances dumped on the side of the road near 7 Mile…. and disposal of these items is FREE! In the end we all have to ask ourselves, “Am I a part of that small percentage of reckless dumpers, or am I a proud, responsible citizen of the North Island?”
I hope this has answered your concerns. If anyone has further questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Regional District office.
Operations Manager, Regional District of Mount Waddington