POLL: City considers crackdown on recycling program violators

By Thia James
March 5, 2013 - 6:24am Updated: March 5, 2013 - 12:07pm

Prince Albert is looking to get tough on people who abuse the city’s recycling program.

At Monday’s executive committee meeting, city councillors addressed concerns that recycling and garbage were being mixed in the bins during a discussion about 2013 Sanitation Fund Operating and Capital budget.
Councillors raised the spectre of fine increases for non-compliance with recycling rules.

After the meeting, public works director Colin Innes said that some of the times it’s an honest mistake made by people who don’t realize they can’t recycle items like cardboard with plastic attached to it.

“But there are other people who they don’t have the space for the garbage so they’re putting it in the bins,” he said and added his department has gone out and inspected the bins that have contamination – garbage mixed in with recyclables - in it. They’ve tagged those bins, and explained correct use of the bin.

“And in some extreme cases, we’ve had to actually take the bin away because they just won’t comply,” he said.

If a load picked up by the city is badly contaminated and soaked, it becomes garbage. It becomes costly when the city can’t get value for the recycled product because it’s garbage – it becomes lost revenue.

And that’s revenue lost for a recycling program that will cost $614,380 to run in 2013. Last year, it cost $589,780 to run the program.

The public works department has tried to educate residents about recycling on top of the bin inspections to encourage greater compliance. But to Mayor Greg Dionne, it’s time to stop focusing on educating and time to start enforcing proper recycling bin use.

“After 10 years [of the program being in place], if you haven’t learned, we have to start punishing you. And you do that by enforcement,” he said after the meeting.

He said council will look into the fines for breaking recycling-related rules. Fine increases for people who illegally parked in parking spots designated for people with physical challenges reduced instances of infractions.
“When you hurt them in the pocketbook, they’ll start to move.”

Dionne said council will wait for a report on problem areas to see where the city is having the most trouble with recycling.

And financial incentives to participate may be more effective than a universality system -- there are inevitably some people who just aren’t interested in recycling, Coun. Lee Atkinson said during the meeting.

“My philosophy has always been of saying, ‘You know what? Maybe it needs to be optional,’” he said. “If you do want to recycle, then the fee for that service is these many -$40 – if you’re going to participate in the recycling program. And those who do not wish to participate – let’s not pretend they are participating, because we know a number are not -- the fee for them to not participate is $60.” Therefore there’s an incentive to participate, he said.

Recycling bin. paNOW Staff.

Coun. Martin Ring said the city has done a great job reducing the waste showing up on the floor at the municipal landfill – contamination is now six or seven percent.

But there still are recycling bins whose content is going straight to the landfill. It’s disappointing, he said, “Because there are people who do want to do it. But all it takes is one or two to spoil it for the rest.”

Coun. Ted Zurakowski suggested going the direction of Saskatoon and “opening up” the recycling bins to other kinds of products. Currently only paper products can go into recycling bins.

“Certainly if we open up the bin, if you will, and allow other things to be recycled, and perhaps collected and sorted in a different manner, it may solve that problem,” he said.

He added this is certainly an issue because once you contaminate a bin the whole truck is “gone.” He and Ring agreed that where the big shared bins are working, they should be left alone, but where they are not, each residence should get its own individual roll-out bins.

But the problem isn’t limited to the city’s residents. Also of concern to executive committee members are reports of residents of the RMs crossing into Prince Albert to dump their garbage in residents’ bins.

“We’re going to meet with the police and bylaw to say ‘how can we solve this?’ Is it as simple as getting a license number and charging?” Dionne asked after the meeting.

On Saturday, the mayor said he received a phone call and went to the three big bins behind Sherman Towers. The bins had been emptied and filled by a half-tonne, they said. Bylaw officers were called in and the bins were opened up.

“It was [someone from] the RM. And it was easy to find out the guy. He had his bank statements in there,” Dionne said. “When we phoned him, his argument was, ‘I didn’t do that, I gave my garbage to the neighbours and he was going to the city…” The man said he thought the neighbour was going to dispose of the garbage correctly.

And it’s not limited to residential bins – complaints are coming in about people dumping in the bins who are not supposed to be using them.

The cost is aesthetic, but the mayor also said “You shouldn’t use a service you’re not paying for.”

Yard waste collection in sanitation utility budget under fire

Monday evening’s discussion about the recycling program was sparked by a discussion revolving around the Sanitation Utility Operating Fund Budget. One item subjected to a great deal of scrutiny was the $95,000 to pick up yard waste in the back lanes.

Atkinson said the current method of picking up the yard waste is ineffective and costly. “If the sanitation budget still includes that participation, I think we need to rethink that because I’ve never believed that’s a successful program fiscally,” he said.

Innes said the compost pickup accounts for about 25 per cent of the recycle program cost. He said it brings in 1.2 million pounds of material per year.

The councillors approved sending the budget to an upcoming council meeting for a final vote. But councillors expressed a desire to revisit the issue soon.

As for the rest of the fund’s budget, the fund projects it will generate more than $3.1 million in revenues this year. The utility gets most of its revenues from rates – on residents’ utility bills – and fees. Both will rise, as the fee increases were approved in 2011.

In the budget, the utility states it plans to collect an $8.50 entry fee for a load of “residual waste” below 150 kilograms, up from $8.00, and the per-tonne rate will increase by $1 to $52. The sanitation surcharge will also increase by 40 cents to $14.40 on residents’ utility bills – a three per cent increase. The increase is expected to generate an additional $50,900 in revenue.

But the utility’s expenses are also on the rise. Rising salaries and requests for other items including $90,000 to chip brush brought to the landfill, since a regulatory requirement bars it from burning the brush. Fees charged for brush and trees will be reviewed this year, the budget document said.

The utility is also budgeting $15,000 for the removal of scrap tires deposited at the landfill.

City manager Robert Cotterill stated that the money budgeted for chipping the brush and scrap tire removal will only be used if needed, and won’t be spent on anything else.

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