Three times trashy

July 14th, 2008
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An alert reader, H.S. from Chilliwack, B.C., sent some interesting observations of waste disposal developments there. I paraphrase:

“We had garbage service by civic employees. Then we went to a system where each household contracted with any company they wanted to collect their garbage. This resulted in a lot of garbage left beside roads, in empty lots, etc., because there are people who do not want to pay. We also had recycling bins scattered throughout the city for paper, bottles, and cans.

There was a big mess.

Eventually we went a system of centralized garbage pickup. The city chose a commercial collector and all homes (now) have weekly pick up. Costs are levied by the city on each home in addition to normal taxes. We can opt (to) pay for yard waste.”

This new system brought immediate benefits. Alert Reader continues:

“Since the change, there is a lot less roadside garbage and the recycling bins have been removed. The weekly pick up takes all the recycling material you have, there is no limit. The garbage is limited to one can a week and you can purchase additional cans.

This seems like a good system, the union is not involved, the charges are reasonable and there is little roadside garbage.

The landfill is the same in all cases. It is owned by the city.

The biggest advantage for me is the removal of the negative externality of roadside garbage and the messy recycle bins.”

These comments show there are obviously different alternatives worth trying – and false attempts of well-meaning communities that simply don’t work out. Compared to the Calgary experience (up to now) of the big re-cycling bins, where you (I) procrastinate and haul tons of stuff a few times a year, getting re-cycling removed frequently with regular waste sounds awfully attractive.

Perhaps it’s too much to hope that the waste disposal “professionals” will arrive at the right methods. Besides, city folk are essentially captive to the system imposed on them. By contrast, I see the temptation for rural folks to “burn or bury” as being very high. Make the process too onerous and the “bag-tags” won’t ever be used.

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By John Weissenberger and Alert Reader H.S.