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Residents trash talk the Region

Turnout at the meeting was light. VOICE PHOTO

Input solicited on proposed changes to 2021 trash collection contract tender

BY JENNIFER CHORNLEY
The VOICE

The Niagara Region held a “Let’s Talk Waste” community input session on Monday, November 12 at the community center.

About a dozen Pelham residents attended the presentation by Brad Whitelaw, Program Manager for the Niagara Region’s Waste Management Services.

Earlier in the day, there was a community booth set up at the Pelham Public Library. According to the Region, there were 25 residents who got information regarding proposed service changes and completed a survey regarding current waste management.

The presentation incorporated proposed changes and the reasoning behind them concerning the Region’s residential and business waste collection program.

Four changes for low-density residential units receiving curbside pick-ups are being proposed.

Discontinuing curbside collection of large household appliances and scrap metal for low-density residential pick-ups is the first proposed change.

Whitelaw said that curbside-collected appliance and scrap metal tonnages have decreased by 94 percent since 2007. In addition, the items can be recycled, at no cost, at Niagara Region’s Drop-off Depots, or at scrap metal dealers.

Whitelaw said in some instances, between the time residents make an appointment and the actual pick-up day, scavengers have already taken the requested item, leaving nothing for the contractor to pick up, yet the Region is still charged for the incomplete service.

Resident Bruno Sardella said he had concerns regarding the removal of this service, especially for seniors who may not have access to a vehicle or even the ability to get to the local landfill facilities. He proposed to Whitelaw that the Region consider establishing a community drop-off location within each municipality for more convenience.

Overall, Sardella was satisfied with the service.

“Don’t change it. Leave things the way they are. Garbage in the summer stinks if it can’t be picked up once a week.”

The second proposed service amendment is the mandatory use of clear garbage bags. Residents would be required to use clear bags for garbage with the option to use an opaque (such as grocery) privacy bag placed inside the clear bag.

The clear bag requirement would be in effect for all businesses and mixed-use buildings.

Whitelaw said this increases waste diversion to extend the lifespan of Niagara Region’s landfills by encouraging residents to increase usage of the Blue Box, Grey Box and Green Bin programs. The Region says that only 48 per cent of Niagara’s low density residential properties use the Green Bin program.

Clear bags will also increase staff awareness of what is placed in the garbage due to visibility of bag contents. This will potentially eliminate the option of concealing non-acceptable materials and hazardous materials such as broken glass, nails, and sharp objects, which could harm collection staff.

Pelham resident Kim Lawrence said she was concerned with the use of clear bags.

“Overall, it’s a privacy issue, especially these days when identity theft is common,” she said.

“Whether it’s junk mail, regular mail or even health-related items such as prescriptions, it leaves residents exposed. Almost like ‘Big Brother’ is watching.”

With health-related waste, Lawrence said many people just throw away their prescriptions and medical patches.

“Fentanyl is a major drug issue in communities now. If addicts know there are prescriptions in that bag, fentanyl included, they will stop at nothing to get it,” Lawrence said. “There is still a bit of residual fentanyl on those patches they can get a hit from.”

Whitelaw said that unused or expired prescriptions can be returned on a year-round basis at any of the Niagara Region’s household hazardous waste depot locations, which can be found on the Niagara Region’s website.

From a dental hygienist perspective, Lawrence noted that the dental industry has many new infection control procedures implemented by Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC) that are creating more waste.

“A lot of offices are overwhelmed by the new regulations by IPAC and are just throwing stuff away,” Lawrence said. “We are probably making twice as much garbage as we used to make over the past year since these changes have been made.”

“Everything now is either single-use or has to be sterilized,” she said. “Now, we are using more single-use items. Things that we were able sterilize, we can’t do that anymore. Things like prophy heads that are pure plastic and metal burrs that could be recycled now have to be thrown away.”

Another dental issue, according to Lawrence, is that Niagara Region health inspectors are telling staff that they need to wear a new disposable gown for each client.

“That’s a lot of waste that doesn’t get recycled. Even something as simple as equipment packaging, where the plastic and the paper is separated, is going in the garbage.”

Lawrence was also concerned that there may be a price hike for clear garbage bags.

Whitelaw said there will be no increase in cost as the bags are already produced clear— it’s just a dye that’s added to make the bags black.

The third proposed change is establishing a four-item limit per-unit, per-collection, for the large item collection service that applies only to low-density residents.

The Region’s reasoning for the proposed four large-item limit is that residential properties set out an average of fewer than two large items per collection in 2018. Of the 99 percent of Niagara’s low-density residential properties, four or fewer items go out for collection and 92 percent of the total bookings were for four or fewer bulky items.

The final proposed change being considered is bi-weekly garbage collection for low density and multi-residential units. Curbside collection would change from one garbage container weekly to two every two weeks, with recycling and organics collection continuing weekly.

Niagara’s low-density residential properties set out an average of less than one garbage container per week.

The bi-weekly pick up option would also be put into effect for mixed-use buildings and all businesses.

Whitelaw said that waste audits showed 50 percent was organic waste that could be composted, 36 percent was unrecyclable waste, and 14 percent was recyclable materials. These statistics were based on a 2015-2016 consumption study.

He added that the bi-weekly pick-up option would increase waste diversion efforts to help extend the lifespan of Niagara Region’s landfills and cushion contractor expenses.

From a business aspect, Whitelaw said that only 61 percent of mixed-use properties and 34 percent of the industrial, commercial and institutional properties participate in the Region’s curbside recycling program.

Only 20 percent of mixed-use and 11 percent of industrial, commercial and institutional properties participate in the Green Bin program.

The region is also considering changing weekly garbage container limits to four bins per week. This option would apply to industrial, commercial and institutional and mixed-use properties inside designated business areas, and mixed-use properties outside designated business areas. Bi-weekly pickup would see eight bins allowable.

The proposed four garbage container limit would align with existing four garbage container limits for industrial, commercial and institutional properties outside designated business areas.

Currently, the limit is six per week.

Whitelaw explained that an independent company did the waste audits over a two-week period during each season. There were 150 houses throughout the region, 10 per municipality, with the larger cities, St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls, having more representation. The company then physically sorted through the bags and broke down the waste components.

The input process continues until the end of the month.

Whitelaw says he encourages residents to complete the online waste management survey.

“It’s just like voting—it gives you the opportunity to have a say in a service you use on a regular basis.”

To date, the Region says that 4,200 Niagara residents have completed the survey.

Residents have until November 30 at midnight to complete the survey at www.niagararegion.ca/letstalkwaste

 

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