Citizens urge public participation in Solid Waste Roadmap talks

Further to the subject of solid waste changes and in response to a couple of letters to the editor in the April 18 issue

Further to the subject of solid waste changes and in response to a couple of letters to the editor in the April 18 issue of the Lacombe Globe, we would like to state to Mr. Parish that there were several working people at the meeting on April 8 who found the time and made the effort, after working all day, to get there.

The group was not just made up of a “handful of retired seniors,” but rather a fairly large group of concerned citizens.

It should be pointed out to Mr. Parish that this was a regular council meeting that the people chose to attend; it was not a public meeting to discuss a certain topic. Council meetings have been held at 5 p.m. for as long as we can remember, so they should start that early, since a lot of them are lengthy, going well into the evening hours.

As a result of the group’s participation and attendance at that meeting, council asked the City to come back with a plan for further public consultation in the matter.

Yes, Ms. Pack, we are intense and do care about our garbage – we care about what goes into it, where it ends up and how it gets picked up.

For a system of disposal and recycling to work well, it has to be easy and convenient for the users; otherwise there tends to be apathy and/or abuse.

This may involve public education as well to get everyone on board, to make sure they understand how important it is and what the long-term consequences are if we do not begin to take responsibility for making sure that we become environmentally conscientious.

From the time we first noticed the small ad from the City in the Lacombe Globe of March 14 and March 21, 2013 notifying the public that they would begin removing the back alley dumpsters and replace them with small rollout bins, we have been doing research into the issue.

We have talked with many people in the community about the removal of the dumpsters and most of them were unaware of the City’s plan to make these changes. The vast majority of those people were not in favour of the removal for various reasons which we presented to council at the April 18 meeting.

A ‘one-size fits all’ or universal solution rarely works.

The way this City has been developed over the years (e.g. back alleys in older areas vs. no back alleys in newer developments) has lent itself to a combination of dumpsters and rollout bins.

While we aren’t quite seniors, both of us have experienced the change from garbage cans in the alley that had lids knocked off or were knocked over by people/animals to the dumpster style of disposal, which we felt was a much better system.

To lose this system to rollouts seems to us to be a regression.

Having a rollout in front of your garage is one thing; how will you feel when it becomes two rollouts – one for garbage and one for recycle – which will very possibly have to be put out at separate times and/or days because of privatizing the recycle program?

Our guess is that eventually the composting aspect being proposed in the Roadmap will involve each household having a third rollout.

What resident wants to store those three rollouts and worry about a possible additional time and day for pickup? And don’t forget that the ultimate target set in the Roadmap is for bi-weekly pickup, thereby necessitating that residents must remember what bin goes out at what time and on what day.

There is never a one size fits all solution.

Consider the many townhouse units that have been built in Lacombe over the last couple of decades – three or four units joined together.

The middle units do not have access to their backyards except by going through the house, so they cannot store rollouts in the back until pickup day and then bring them to the front.

There is no room at the front of these units for storing one to three rollouts and the garages are too small to store them all inside.

In the winter weather conditions we experience here with freezing and thawing, it is very difficult to keep the wheels free of snow and ice so they can be moved for pickup, particularly if the bin must be stored in an area where one doesn’t normally shovel.

The City’s ultimate plan to move to biweekly pickup means the rollouts will likely become even more embedded in snow and ice because of not being moved as often.

For those people who have compromised health or mobility issues, it is much easier for them to dump a small, lightweight bag of garbage into a dumpster than to have to worry about storage and dragging a rollout to the curb.

Just because a dumpster is removed from a back alley does not mean that dumping of ‘illegal’ garbage is going to stop.

Anyone who practices ‘fly by dumping’ will do that regardless. It just means that they don’t have to be responsible for it and if they think that way anyway, it won’t matter if a dumpster is available or not.

If individual dumpsters were assigned to particular houses or addresses and labeled as such, it would make a neighbourhood watch system more effective because one generally knows what his immediate neighbours are doing and if a person was inclined to dump something that shouldn’t be in there, he would know his co-users would probably be aware who did it, which might encourage him to re-think his actions.

Because the City plans to shut down the Wolf Creek recycle area this year, a workable alternative for those who have back alleys could be to have back alley recycle bins, perhaps with separate areas for plastic, tin, cardboard, paper, etc. Again, if a system is easy and convenient to use, then it will be utilized.

The cost of these bins could be offset against the potential $1.1 million for the cost of the rollouts over the 10-year period. If each back alley had two of these bins, they would likely be put to good use by residents. Again, public education in this area is crucial.

More reasons for retaining back alley dumpsters include the safety issue of having a large garbage truck weave in and out of traffic on 50th Ave. (one of the busiest streets in the City) while picking up curbside rollout bins from every residence along that road.

There are also other streets in Lacombe this would apply to. As well, Lacombe is touted to be “the most beautiful city in Alberta” by many. It wouldn’t take long to have that reputation scarred by having two or three rollouts sitting in front of each of the beautiful houses, particularly along 50th Ave.

Back alley dumpsters don’t have to be unsightly. A few years ago, the City had some of the dumpsters painted. Some of these still look great today. All the dumpsters could have a fresh coat of paint every two or three years, thereby keeping them neater looking.

Our ultimate thought on this subject is that the back alley dumpsters do not have to be removed. This City will always have more than one system to deal with garbage disposal because there are many areas that can’t accommodate the curbside rollout system, just as there are areas that can’t have back alley pickup because there aren’t back alleys.

At the council meeting on April 22, the City presented to council a list of strategies for engaging the public and getting further input into the subject of dumpster removal, rollout bins, recycling and composting as well as the closure of the Wolf Creek Recycle Depot.

The City’s Solid Waste Roadmap was put forth after receiving the feedback of only 2% of the population. Mayor Christie said in the meeting that he thought that figure was far too low and he would like to see response from at least 3,500 people.

Let’s give our input to council members and City administration by attending the many venues proposed, public meetings, by email, phone calls or personal visits. We need to familiarize ourselves with the Solid Waste Roadmap and we need to voice our opinions on this subject which will affect all of us.

Margaret Garrett and Louise Pickett

Lacombe