Curbside recycling was a popular topic during the 2008 municipal election but you’d never know it by the tepid response to Terrace/Thornhill’s four-month free curbside recycling pilot project conducted from October 2010 to February this year.
Of 200 households offered free recycling only 130 took part. Only 15 availed themselves of a household visit from a zero waste advisor hired to supply information and support through kitchen table talks and workshops.
All participants were offered $25 for start-up costs or to improve their recycling practices. A $50 subsidy was offered to each for buying a composter. Only one family, ‘sold’ on the pilot project, took the $50 and in fact bought two composters. But for many participants the effort of daily sorting their compostables from their recyclables proved too demanding.
I understand that in the beginning separating compostables from recyclables like cardboard and plastics takes thought and time. Dumping everything into one garbage container is so much simpler. But soon sorting becomes automatic.
Since 2007 I have been vermicomposting in a spare room kept at or above 50 degrees F. In a large Rubbermaid bin red wrigglers ($50.05 couriered from Kamloops) toil year round munching vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and tea bags. Food scraps that draw fruit flies go to the outdoor compost bin. That includes fruit, tomatoes, and onions. Meat scraps and other proteins go to the landfill.
On my kitchen counter sit two Crisco containers, one for worm food, the other lined with a plastic bread bag for the garden box. A Becel container collects coffee grounds. Plastic bags and wrappings end in a bin under the sink.
I dice peelings and cabbage cores on a baking sheet before burying them in the worm bin topped by a scoop of sheep manure. The worms labour quietly and are odour-free.
When the current garbage company began serving our neighbourhood about six years ago, to protest their despotic rules regimenting how much garbage we could put out and where we might set it, we opted to haul our garbage directly to the landfill, avoiding the mandatory monthly pickup fee charged whether we needed pickup or not.
Since vermicomposting, filing a garbage bag for the landfill can take two months, and usually the bag contains mainly unrecyclable plastic strawberry containers.
To make recycling program affordable, blue box pickup dates need to be flexible, like Handidart, so homeowners pay only for the sporadic service they use.
If dropping off compostables at existing depots is too taxing, arrange Saturday depots at such well attended parking lots as Walmart, Canadian Tire, liquor store, Save On Foods and the farmers market. At each depot spot a truck, and pay childrens’ groups such as school bands and Boy Scouts to oversee drop-offs, just as they already do for bottle drives.
Youth groups manning the depots should be paid well for their time and effort. The pilot project cost taxpayers $27,221.15 yet reduced waste by an insignificant amount. Paying the youth groups would directly support their school projects with a budgeted income while encouraging parents to recycle. Parents would spend far less on gas than canvassing a neighbourhood for bottles. Have the depots hand out tickets to record household participation. After ten tickets reward the family with a free pizza or, in winter, a free family skate.
Children “get” saving the environment. Involved children push their parents to compost and recycle more, an easy step toward Terrace/Thornhill’s goal of increasing “resident receptivity” and “reducing barriers to organic diversion”.