The Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine (RDKS) has received a high response to their solid waste survey this year to help improve the disposal of trash.
With 875 respondents across the region, the survey was conducted to hear feedback and understand how to provide better direction as they move towards developing a new Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) for the next decade.
Following a shift towards modernizing the waste management system, the RDKS in 2016 introduced the four-step process outlined by the BC Ministry of Environment to better reduce, reuse, recycle and dispose of waste. This survey also followed up on how residents and businesses were doing with the changes.
Overall, there were 697 responses from the Terrace service area, and 178 responses from the Hazeltons and Highway 37 N service area.
“The biggest takeaway is I think that people want to do good. People inherently want their waste to be recycled and they want to reuse things as much as possible,” says RDKS environmental services coordinator Nicki Veikle.
“But a lot of people have a different understanding of the way that waste is managed and that sort of confusion sometimes leads to people to become frustrated… there’s been a steep learning curve.”
She says the current waste management system in place is similar to the larger centres in Vancouver and Victoria, and that residents here in comparison have adjusted very well to the changes with few “growing pains”.
“Within a year, our citizens were performing on par with what’s going on down south and although there’s always room for improvement everywhere for waste management, it’s pretty impressive that [our] results are similar to what’s happening in Vancouver,” says Veikle. “People here are actually doing really great… a big thumbs up from the Regional District to the community.”
Highlights of the survey revealed that the majority of respondents either composted at home or used the curbside collection to get rid of their compost. And when it comes to used items, citizens often seek alternative ways to keep them out of landfills such as donating them or using buy and sell markets online.
Almost 50 per cent responded that they didn’t know they could or weren’t recycling smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms.
She says there have been many changes in the global waste management system industry as it evolves, which not only affects residents but presents challenges to the RDKS as well.
Trying to update facilities and programs that meet provincial regulatory requirements and environmental standards can be difficult to keep up with, especially as they serve approximately 40,000 residents in 10 different locations — which all have different needs regarding geography and resources.
In the survey, many points were brought up by their respondents, including transfer station hours, improving ways to recover reusable items, illegal dumping and having less single-use disposable items.
Viekle says to extend operating transfer station and landfill facilities hours would be an added cost to taxpayers. For example, by keeping the Thornhill Transfer Station an extra hour per week would cost an additional $35,000 for the year as that requires extra labour costs. Moving forward, the RDKS will be looking for alternative ways to make the facilities more accessible for users such as having alternating windows of time for drop-off.
“If they were to be open from nine to five, Monday to Friday, it’s not like it’s very busy so we just basically try to consolidate the hours and encourage people to use those hours… maybe not even extend them, but change them to work better for our citizens,” she says.
As for recycling, she says it’s important for people to be aware of cross-contamination when sorting out their waste. It’s important to rinse out any food from plastic containers as that can easily become a health hazard to the facilities and deem an entire bag of recycles as unusable.
“I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘Do you want me to wash my garbage now?’ Well, no, it’s not garbage, it’s actually a resource that can be turned into something new again,” Viekle says. “Contamination is an issue and that’s part of why China closed its borders to North American recycling because we don’t do a good enough job of managing that yet.”
The survey also showed that most respondents indicated they wanted to be provided with “better or more user education” and want a “one stop drop of recyclables”, along with lobbying for reduced plastic packaging.
Although it will take some time to implement waste management changes that cater to both citizens and the province, Viekle says they are happy with the high number of responses as it now gives them a chance to move forward with a better strategy.
To view the full 2019 Solid Waste Survey Results and RDKS Response, the document can be found online or at the regional district office.