Opinion

COLUMN: Will New Westminster residents be able to hold the line on trash?

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Do you flatten?

Cans, milk jugs, cereal boxes... Do you make the extra effort to pry tops, squeeze ‘em so you can cram them into that recycling tote under the sink?

It’s a contentious issue in many New Westminster households, mine included, as the uptight one—let’s say me—admonishes the other—let’s call her my wife—to be a little more vigilant.

These self-righteous folks are often guilty of their own crimes. They’re the ones under the sink, using a foot to jam just one more empty yogurt container into the little tote so they won’t have to take the whole darned thing all the way down the stairs (we’re talking 12 of them!) and out to the shiny new blue recycling bin.

Speaking of which, when I saw that gang of folks unloading those hulking new contraptions off a flatbed in December, it filled my heart with song.

No more separation, no more overstuffed “mixed paper” bags, and having to find another garbage bag for the overflow.

The new bin found a new home by the back door—which, with three bins now resembles the back of an apartment block—and was immediately filled to the brim with recyclables.

Then time stood still. Christmas came and went, and I learned pickup wasn’t until this Tuesday—18 days since the last one. I dragged the old blue box out, and filled it, the bags, then six garbage bags of overflow.

I started cursing Kristian Davis’s name, the city’s supervisor of sanitation. And then, to be fair, I decided to give him a call.

My biggest concern is the shift in 2012 to alternating pickup between trash and recycling. That’s a long time to wait for a garbage truck.

“It’s worked in other cities,” Kristian told me.

But he acknowledged that some families may need to upgrade their containers. I’m sure that will be the case. My house produces a little less trash than average for a household with two kids, and we’ll struggle to toe the new trash line. Kristian said when Port Coquitlam switched to bi-weekly pickup, about 15 per cent of families upsized.

And in New West, that won’t come cheap. The big bin upgrade bumps your fee from $224 (120L) up to $340 a year (240L).

Ouch.

A better option may be to “tag a bag.” By purchasing tags from the city at $2.50 a pop, you can leave an additional bag of garbage out as needed. One bag at each pickup will set you back $65 for the year.

I suspected city hall would be getting some angry phone calls this month as a result of the change to bi-weekly trash pickup. After all, like a mother’s love and the smell of gunpowder in May, garbage is a core issue for New Westers.

But Kristian says there’s only been a few, perhaps thanks to his department’s efforts to spread the word throughout 2011, sending out brochures and manning info booths at city festivals.

Recycling is expected to increase this year, helping New West move toward the Metro Vancouver goal of diverting 80 per cent of trash from the landfill by 2020. Port Moody switched to all-in-one recycling a couple of years ago and folks there said New West should anticipate a 10 per cent increase in the volume of recyclables.

My guess is that might come from people like me who will see a number 3 (not recyclable) in the little triangle on the bottom of that takeout container from Lhy Thai and think about that overflowing trash bin...

One of the things I like best about the changes to garbage collection in 2012 is the shift from five zones to four.

As a result, the pickup day will remain reasonably stable. On a week with a holiday Monday, the pickup day will move one day forward (e.g. from Thursday to Friday in Sapperton), then return to its original day the following week.

And there will be pickups on the week of Christmas. Thank the lord.

And thanks, Kristian.

• Chris Bryan is editor of the NewsLeader.

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