THE CITY OF KAMLOOPS begins its pilot test of the curbside organic waste collection program in September. Marcia Dick, the city’s solid waste services analyst, updated Civic Operations committee members recently.
Apparently 2,000 homes on selected routes, some high volume, some low volume, a few laneway routes and routes with expected wildlife activity are being tested. The City is looking to understand fully what a city-wide curbside collection could look like.
Obviously, a main goal here is to determine public support for the program. A recent survey shows 79% generally support it, 6% were neutral, and 15% were opposed. Of those opposed, 26 per cent said they are backyard composters who don’t need a curbside pickup service.
Since 2012, the annual Utility fee for garbage pickup has not changed, and the proposed increases are relatively small:
– No cost increase for the 120-litre bins
– $8 for 180 litre bins,
– $10 for 245 litre bins,
– and $22 for 360 litre bins.
That increase is probably reasonable all on its own … almost 10 years, less than a buck a year increase for the 245-litre bin most of us haul out to the curb weekly.
At our humble abode here, we use the common 245-litre bin. Week to week we tend to less than half fill it, some weeks almost nothing. Our blue lid bin is absolutely chock full to the lid every single week, as we recycle hard, and the lady brings home her offices paper recycling to ensure it is properly disposed of.
As well, we set aside in our house a space and some partitioned boxes where we collect ALLthe other recyclables that the City no longer accepts; soft plastic wrap and shopping bags, Styrofoam and glass and we about monthly drop all that off at General Grants.
We pile any cardboard and if no one needs it we take it occasionally to the city recycling transfer on Bunker. We also collect our newspapers and padded courier envelopes and give that to the stained-glass store for packaging their fragile sales.
In the back yard we have three large compost bins in the garden for the kitchen vege and gardening refuse that is properly suited for it.
Recently we just began taking our meat cuttings, bones and any compost materials we don’t want in our garden composters, to the Footprints Store by Walmart, and that includes pizza boxes and greasy take-out fish and chip paper. It’s a program you can join.
So, today there are no compostable or recyclable materials going to our garbage bin. Zero.
Yes, we do more than most people, a lot more than some, but that’s a personal decision to do what we can regarding our own footprint on the environment. It’s just something we need to do, and we don’t want kudos for it … yet our experience does provide an interesting viewpoint to this discussion.
We don’t personally need a curbside compost pickup service, but understand wholeheartedly that a great many others do, so we support the program in general, and don’t oppose it.
Here’s the thing.
Let’s remember that it was almost 4 years ago that the city joined the Recycle BC program … a program that earns the city about a million dollars a year, which was at the time supposed to offset the cost of a future compost program. That’s what they said then.
Here we are now 4 years later being told that in order to pay for a composting program, our taxes (via our Utility bill) need to be increased.
… so, which is it?
Not long ago, Coun. Dale Bass was on the NL Radio Morning News Show, where she discussed the proposed increase for garbage collection fees, as a way to partly offset the cost of this program.
Bass suggested the goal is to encourage composting, and the increase is so the city can “bring in organics collection and go into composting and things like that.” and added “I just don’t get it. It’s like you spend more each month on a coffee.”
Apparently, we should just want to pay more for a city provided service, and then justify the cost increase by way of that good ole ‘cup of coffee’ mantra. This has become a trope in society that equates value to Starbucks trips, that presumes we will probably just shrug it off as affordable … “only a cup a day … that ain’t much, right”?
A City Council member is behind a tax increase, and is using the ‘coffee a day’ excuse to accept a tax increase that was supposed to be paid for by the million dollar a year program that we already earn … during a year we were not supposed to see a tax increase.
Keep in mind that we are talking about a pre-emptive increase to pay for a program that has not even begun, and wont until 2023 … if the program goes ahead at all. That’s like me saying I’ll be stopping by your house to pick up the front counter fees for a public swim at the Tournament Centre next year, that you may or may not even attend.
Then there is the delicacy of the community issues of a full blown, fully implemented compost program and a few fundamental concerns and issues that simply must be addressed prior to the roll out. Some very creative ideas will be needed.
As a composter that has experienced it in my own back yard and in my kitchen, I will look forward to that week in August during a heat wave with an entire cityscape of full compost bins at the streets edge awaiting pick up. The smell will be fun.
Keep in mind the proposed bins are small, which will help regarding smell build up and volume, but who needs reminding that Kamloops can be a very windy place? Expect to see little green bins and their entrails sliding down the street on those special gusty days.
At the opposite end of the year, compost materials will freeze solid and stick to the bin making them un-dumpable, but I understand the program will halt during winter months, so now there will be an empty compost bin, much lighter weight than our larger bins, flowing with the winter wind down the street, because people may not want to bring them in.
Of note may also be the winter shoulder months and freak unexpected cold snaps that freeze up its contents, and our green frozen bins go ice skating down the block … more fun.
I would expect that the city would recommend that we bring them inside to defrost so they can be picked up on the following scheduled day … ya … I’ll just let that sink in.
Are we having fun yet?
A home compost system requires responsible maintenance that can only be performed by the resident. There is no “It’s too gross,” it must be done or everyone nearby suffers the consequences. That means I am literally taking a hose to our kitchen bucket every time and wash it with soap once in a while, so I can bring it back into the kitchen to reuse without it becoming too toxic to lift the lid.
How many people are going to say “it’s the city’s bin … not my responsibility”?
This is becoming less fun.
One day we can expect a new bylaw requiring compost bins be cleaned, and of course enforcement means … because everything has a cost … up go our taxes again to pay for it.
Composting is a good thing and we prove that every day, but a city-wide composting pickup system needs to be vetted of all potential contingencies, and my fingers are crossed that the City can figure all this out.
I will leave it to the reader to determine if they feel the City is capable of walking this tightrope between environmental stewardship, finances and community and individual responsibility.
The way I see it, Dale Bass telling us that she can’t ‘get it’ why people are upset about a tax increase we did not expect, for a program that is supposed to be paid for already, all while informing us that we can apparently afford … a cup of coffee?
At the end of the day, at the helm of the city we have certain people who have shown time and time again that there is a preset autopilot that wishes for the moon, a latent typhlotic willingness to just take new tax revenue to pay for it, and then show either a blatant disregard for the needs of tax payers or a lethargic inability to comprehend that every single cup of coffee worth of finances … actually does matter to us.
Now if you excuse me, my kitchen compost needs carrying out to the garden.
I can tell because we are in a 40 degree heat wave.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.