The City of Terrace isn’t sure what kind of recycling program it will offer to residents after a lower than expected response to a pilot project costing nearly $28,000.
A report on the city’s and Regional District of Kitimat Stikine’s zero waste pilot project was presented to the district and city council at the end of June, with council learning that initial participation in the curb-side program was not as high as anticipated.
“I certainly was surprised initially by the buy-in to the pilot project,” Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski said.
An initial plan to recruit 300 people for the pilot was shaved down to 200 for budget reasons and even then, fewer people than anticipated signed up. In the end, 130 households participated in the free-of-charge, four-month pilot project, and of these households, the average participation in the project came to 52 per cent.
“That was a bit surprising as well,” Pernarowski said. “I thought it was an issue that was a little bit more important to the larger population in the area.”
Curbside recycling was quite a popular topic during the 2008 municipal election, and there has been a push toward greener measures as the city and Kitimat-Stikine regional district work toward opening a landfill at Forceman Ridge off of Hwy37 South toward Kitimat near Chist Creek.
Garbage collection and transport costs will then increase, meaning both the city and the regional district want to cut down on the amount of material now being thrown away.
“It’s going to be more expensive….There’s more expense to get the garbage into the fill, and then there’ll be more cost to transport it out there in terms of fuel,” Pernarowski said.
“We’re certainly trying to work towards getting some things done prior to change to offset how much we’re taking out to that new landfill.”
The goal of reducing the amount of garbage being transported spurred the decision to stage a pilot curbside recycling project to gauge public reaction to the concept of recycling as well as composting, water conservation and green shopping.
An initial $52,421 budget estimate (with the city and regional district splitting costs) was set but actual spending came in at $27,221.15 because of low participation and fewer people taking up a subsidy offer to buy a composter.
Residences from the Bench, Horseshoe, southside and upper and lower Thornhill were chosen for a representative sample of the community in terms of neighbourhoods, demographics and housing types.
The project began at the end of October 2010 and ended February of this year, with participants receiving 16 weeks of free curbside recycling through local company Do Your Part Recycling.
There was a difference in service levels between the areas; some households had recycling picked up weekly while others were bi-weekly, and some bags were co-mingled and some needed to be sorted.
There were also vouchers for composting containers, composting workshops were held and a zero waste challenge guide produced.
Zero waste advisor Chris Gee was hired to help out participants with knowledge and support, and ended up going door to door to households to see if people wanted to participate. Sixty-six of the households participating in the project were signed up through a face-to-face invitation.
Terrace Horseshoe residents David and Mary McNeice were chosen for the pilot project, and while they weren’t sure at first if they wanted to be part of the project, they say are glad they participated.
“We still compost, we had to go out and buy another composter, and that might not even be enough,” David said. “We are still recycling, and we have bought into that program now on a continuous basis.”
While the McNeices had done summer composting, they had not composted in the winter or recycle. Through the program, they composted in the winter and recycled when needed. They’ve noticed a big difference in the waste they put out since participating in the project.
Mary said the amount of garbage they’re sending to the dump is considerably lower now, and David said there are some weeks they don’t need to put out the garbage.
“We’ve gone from one, one and a half (garbage) cans a week to maybe one (can) every three weeks,” he said.
Mary said there’s a need in the community for recycling, and believes people would probably recycle more if it was easily available.
Pernarowski said the city is continuing to look at ways to design something that would interest the public.
“We did certainly get some good results of the people that participated…. but I think there’s still more work to be done,” he said.
City’s sustainability coordinator Tara Irwin told council at the June 27 meeting that there wasn’t a significant decrease in the amount of garbage put out to the curb during the course of the pilot project.
And she said one challenge of recycling in Terrace is the distance material has to be sent before it can be used again.
“Curbside recycling might not be the best option currently for our community,” Irwin said, noting the cost of recycling and lack of contractors able to service a community of this size.
“A depot format might be just as good of a fit.”
Irwin also said it’s important to develop partnerships in the community with businesses to set up a centralized recycling depot.
One of the recommendations that came out of the report was to design a food and yard waste composting pilot project for residential and commercial users, which could mean hiring a composting advisor for six months.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can get the community more interested in things like composting,” Pernarowski said, noting this was a difficult part of the project for some people, especially during the winter.
Pernarowski wants city employees to keep looking for ways to reduce garbage so that council members can consider them this fall.