Plenty of inconsistencies with waste pickup

This is an open letter in response to your article In the Bucket (Abbotsford News, Tuesday December 4, 2012).

Dear Editor,

This is an open letter in response to your article In the Bucket (Abbotsford News, Tuesday December 4, 2012) and comments in general about recycling / waste reduction as it exists in Abbotsford.

For one, the City taking affirmative action is commendable – your policies with respect to waste reduction for both Abbotsford businesses and residents show that you are trying to be a leader in municipal environmental consciousness. Might I suggest that you earmark a portion of your $161,000 “communication budget” for internal use? Maybe let the gentlemen who actually drive the trucks and collect the garbage in on what is acceptable at the curb, according to the literature you are providing to us residents?

I have a friend who lives in a different neighbourhood and her yard waste maximum is only two paper bags per pick up; she has tried on several occasions to put out garbage cans clearly labeled as yard waste with the stickers provided by the city but they, and anything over her two-bag allotment, are left behind at the curb. In our neighbourhood, we can put out as many paper bags or yard waste bins as we want and they are usually picked up on the second or third time out, so I am used to coming home from work and finding my yard waste bags / bins abandoned at the curb. The frustrating part is storing them for an additional two weeks waiting for the next yard waste pick up day and hope that the gentlemen are in better spirits and willing to take them. A couple of years ago it took us several months of hauling the yard waste back and forth to the curb before the garbage men conceded and finally took them (we don’t actually rely on the city program to pick up the yard waste, it’s just a nice bonus when they do so we don’t have to do the dump run ourselves). My friend also has the same limit imposed on her recycling (maximum of two bags), so for her the accumulation of her excess recycling and yard waste results in a “dump run” once a month.

Despite how inconsistent the yard waste pick up service has been for us, I have been eagerly awaiting the implementation of the food waste diversion from the garbage stream. Although I appreciated the city’s distribution of the little kitchen buckets, there is no way that they are big enough to accommodate a week’s worth of household organics (let alone two weeks). Using a garbage bin seemed to be not only ridiculous but hugely inconvenient for both us as users and the gentlemen who do the pick-ups on garbage day. Instead, I put the city-provided “Compostable Waste” sticker on a five-gallon pail and placed it – full – at the curb this morning along with my bag of recycling and a shopping bag’s worth of garbage. Honestly, I was not surprised that it was still sitting there FULL when I got home from work today but this raises a whole new issue for me: NOW WHAT? Did using a five-gallon bucket with the green “Compostable Waste” sticker confuse the gentlemen? Do I store it, and an additional one or two buckets of kitchen waste (WHERE?!), until Dec. 21 and try putting them out again and hope that they take it all, like I would normally do with regular yard waste? Should I fill one big 40-gallon garbage can and hope that the gentlemen are able / willing to empty it into the yard waste truck? Or do I give up and simply bag the kitchen waste as garbage and put it out next week on my garbage day? I am open to suggestions on this one!

What I am looking at is if I chance it and the gentlemen again do not pick up my compostable waste on the 21st, then the next opportunity to try again will not be until JANUARY 2013 and it will be a full month’s worth of kitchen waste; it could be halfway composted by the time they actually decide to pick it up! At the moment I am not squeaking about “I pay for this with my taxes!” but realistically, we do not even come close to putting out two bags of garbage per week, so I would greatly appreciate if the policies on the desks at city hall and the implementation of residential waste management in the city works yard could try to intersect at my curb! Work with me, people!

A couple of other random musings while we are on the subject of waste management: one, I am baffled as to why the younger generation seems to be completely daft about recycling! I have several adult children and despite their having been raised in a home where recycling was aggressively performed, they all seem to be oblivious (or apathetic) as to what goes in the blue bag verses the garbage bag. Why?! Every time I hear the adage about “saving the planet for our children” I want to point out that the “children” themselves also need to participate in this “saving” initiative.

Point number two: why were the “compostable waste stickers” not produced on recyclable backing paper? REALLY?! Is this not an oxymoron of epic proportions?!

And number three is specifically for Mr. Les Barkman who was quoted in the Abbotsford News article as having his trash “down to just a can and a half, or even one can, every two weeks.” All I can say is WOW! that is still a lot of garbage for one retired couple to generate. Are you sure that you are not putting stuff in the garbage that can be recycled, or are you really buying products with that much non-recyclable packaging? That is roughly 40 bags of garbage per year which would fill a dump truck, Mr. Barkman. Of all the suits in City Hall, you would be the one who personally understands the bigger picture when it comes to waste management and I kind of expected that you would be setting a near-impossible example in this regard.

Karen Pearman