More than a year after Abbotsford’s curbside ban on glass and plastic film took effect, residents continued to send the city frustrated messages about recycling difficulties.
Last year, residents sent around 100 pieces of unsolicited feedback to city officials through its website. That feedback, which The News obtained through a freedom of information request, is diverse and runs the gamut from compliments to suggestions about improving city infrastructure to grumbling about local parking issues and sidewalks.
But amidst that feedback, recycling troubles were among the most common.
Several residents wrote to the city to say that the system – which requires glass and film plastics to be carted by hand to local depots – discourages even avid recyclers from keeping stuff out of the trash.
“I am the ‘recycling Nazi’ in my family and even I don’t want to bother recycling anymore,” one person wrote. Several noted that the system made recycling particularly difficult for those with busy schedules or who lacked cars.
“Do you think a bus would let us get on board if we were hulking around a bunch of blue bags with us? I very much doubt it,” another person wrote.
Two people wrote frustrated messages to the city about the inability to use compostable and biodegradable bags in their compost bins.
It was suggested by two people that Abbotsford follow the lead of Vancouver, where glass can be placed in a designated “grey box” for pickup, thereby removing the hazard of contamination – the reason officials say glass is no longer accepted curbside. The Township of Langley and City of Richmond have similar programs, although few other B.C. cities have followed suit.
The complaints, all from 2018, came long after the recycling program had been implemented – and after councillors had suggested the city find some way to make recycling easier, rather than harder.
But contamination isn’t the only reason glass recycling has been de-prioritized, according to those in other communities. Recyclers have been finding it increasingly hard to find buyers for second-hand glass since the province’s last glass recycling facility closed a decade ago. And disposing of glass at landfills is less problematic, some have argued, because glass is an inert material that doesn’t break down and can produce gases or leach into the soil.
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Recycling concerns comprised just a slice of the messages sent to officials, though.
Most of those who wrote in, did so to highlight issues pertaining to a certain road or city facility.
And although Abbotsford has a stated goal to make walking and cycling “delightful,” many wrote in to say that much has to be done on that front. Indeed, complaints from frustrated cyclists and pedestrians were far more common than those from drivers.
A George Ferguson Way resident wrote that the road “feels and sounds like a highway at times,” and isn’t bicycle friendly. That person, and another, said the city needs better maps of its bike routes. One person said the map on the city app had “absolutely no basis in reality” and that some of the routes were “dangerous.” The map has since been updated. Another person wrote in to say that the speeds on Bradner and Downes road made biking on those two routes dangerous.
Many others called for the city to make it easier to walk, or cross the street, in their areas. Some wrote about the lack of crosswalks on busy streets, others about dangerously fast cars that jeopardized the safety of children and others walking nearby. Another person fretted about heavy trucks using MacLure Road.
And one person urged the city to build more flashing crosswalk signal lights.
“Please invest in more of these signals, it will save lives,” the person wrote. This year, the city is adding flashing lights, of one sort or another, at 10 different pedestrian crossings.
Feedback on Abbotsford’s parks was generally more positive, with many suggesting ideas for further improving the city’s green spaces.
Mill Lake Park, not unsurprisingly, was the source of the most suggestions, with readers wanting an off-leash dog area at Mill Lake Park, Christmas lights in December, more washrooms, and limits on fishing in areas near benches. Another person suggested swings at their local community park.
And when an ice storm hit and felled trees around Ponderosa Park, the city’s clean-up efforts drew a grateful response by one local resident.
While a complaint of one form or another was the source of most feedback, officials did receive occasional compliments for their work. Residents praised the city’s recreation staff, along with parks and roads crews.
“Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou!” one person wrote after the city fixed up a sidewalk that had been “a mess.”
Another person heaped praise on a skate-rental worker named Dylan who went “above and beyond the call of duty.”
And garbage crews were praised for taking action to remedy the forgetfulness of a Sumas Prairie husband.