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COLUMN | Waste carts

Columnist Andre Carrel talks about garbage collection in Terrace

By Andre Carrel

It was garbage collection day in my neighbourhood when I noticed that a neighbour down the street had placed the garbage and compost carts so close to each other as to be virtually touching. By chance I noticed the garbage truck pulling up and, very carefully, the driver managed to pick up one cart without knocking over the other one.

As he dumped the garbage cart he backed up about 10 meters where he unceremoniously dumped the empty cart against the snowbank. He then pulled ahead, lifted the compost cart and, driving ahead as he emptied it, dropped it against the snowbank about 10 meters from the driveway. At lunchtime I observed the neighbour retrieving the two waste carts.

Should the City do more to underline the need to keep garbage/recycling and compost carts separated by at least one meter? Should citizens pay more attention to the City’s directives? How about garbage truck drivers, do they need temper management and stress counseling?

The City’s Curbside Collection Guidelines explain the correct collection day cart placement in bold print and with a detailed schematic drawing. I don’t see what more the City could do.

As to the culpable resident, was this an act of wickedness, a matter of malice, or could it have been a banal incident of inattentiveness? How about to the truck driver, was his action a matter of malice, a pretext to lash out, or could this have been one of those days where everything went wrong for him and this was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back?

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Reflecting on what I had witnessed it suddenly occurred to me that, in addition to the City, the resident, and the truck driver, this melodrama involved one more player. I had noticed the two waste carts placed far too close to each other.

How much effort would it have taken for me to go out and move one of them? Doing so would have averted the City worker’s frustration and precluded him wasting time. Doing so would also have avoided the inattentive resident’s frustration of having to recover the two carts scattered along the street.

I am retired, and it would have taken me just two minutes to fix the problem and avoid this melodrama. I did not need anyone’s permission to act; what then is my excuse?

I have lived in Vancouver (decades ago), and I have lived in very small and isolated northern towns. I know from personal experience that neighbours looking out for neighbours, helping out in inconspicuous ways – little things that take little effort – goes to the soul of what makes a community.

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More so than jobs and investment, it is a population’s universal participation in the provision of goods and services that create what poets mean when they speak of community.

I have on occasion been critical of City Council and the Board of Education when I considered their decision, or lack thereof, to short-change our democracy.

The guilty party in this anecdote is neither City Council, one of its workers, nor my neighbour. I have to look into the mirror to find the guilty party. This is embarrassing because I know better. A two-minute effort on my part would have avoided frustration for three people (including me).

This is my apology to my neighbour and to the City’s worker.