The Kinsmen Community Centre was full to the brim on Monday, Dec. 7 with town residents who were curious to learn more about the recycle and waste management program that is set to begin Jan. 4.
The open house organized by the town brought together residents who had lots of questions and concerns about the new program, among them how street front pickups will affect residents who have their garbage collected in back alleys and if the two week collection pickup for garbage is too long to wait.
Residents could submit their questions in writing or speak directly to organizers. Among the speakers was Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services for the Town of Ponoka, and representatives from Green for Life Environmental (GFL), the company hired to run the waste management and recycle program.
Also in attendance was Amanda Henderson-Kada, executive director of the Rising Sun Clubhouse, which has been in charge of the blue box recycle program in Ponoka for the last 18 years. Henderson-Kada was optimistic about the new program.
“Moving forward I do understand that there is an opportunity for us to co-exist,” she said.
Later she confirmed that about 75 per cent the clubhouse’s existing customers had reaffirmed their business and she added that about 25 to 30 new customers had signed up, which she was pleased with.
In an earlier interview, Henderson-Kada explained while the new way the recycling program is to work would create some free capacity for their workforce because sorting would no longer be required, it would still be diffiuclt for them to take on too many new customers. “Our priority will be our existing customers,” she said.
The biggest questions that appeared to be on everyone’s lips was, “Why?” To answer that McPhee provided some background to the town’s recycling and how it compares to the rest of the province. He said the province has required municipalities to have 60 per cent of waste go to recycle streams by 2015.
When he started several years ago, McPhee said he determined that the town was not reporting its waste streams to the province and was recycling less than 10 per cent of its waste, even with the recycle station downtown. He said over 90 per cent of municipalities in Alberta have now been implementing mandatory recycling programs, and Ponoka has now joined the list.
The challenge one resident saw is with large families on a bi-weekly schedule. McPhee said the intention with two week pickup is to encourage recycling but added that there may be other options for residents like having two garbage bins. As the program has yet to begin, planners will have room to re-evaluate the process.
“What I’m asking the community is to work with us. Let us know,” offered McPhee.
One metre space needed for pickup
Chris Duiker, who oversees community pickups with GFL, said the reason for the one metre diameter space is to ensure a safe pickup of the 65 gallon garbage cans. The special cans, with large wheels, are designed for easy transport over snow to the street. Automation makes it cheaper for residents to collect garbage and for recycling, using the clear blue or clear garbage bags, there will be one more collector throwing bags into trucks.
Two specific products are not recyclable: Styrofoam and glass. While Styrofoam may have a recycle symbol, Duiker says it is not. Glass is the same. “Some communities are accepting it but there is no recyclable product for it,” explained Duiker.
Another area of concern was over back alley pickups. McPhee said there are some alleys that trucks will not fit in safely. Some of that has to do with aging infrastructure and new equipment. However, there may be areas where special accommodations need to be made, he added.
Despite these challenges GFL will conduct annual surveys on collections in town to determine problem areas. Duicker added that while they do have some pickup guidelines and they will be working closely with residents and the town to find a system that works for everyone. “There’s ways to make things work,” said Duiker.
Recycle as much as needed
There is no restriction on how much can be recycled.
Duiker said the company does request a rinse of cans but they will collect them if not rinsed. “We prefer that you rinse them. The only reason for that is food debris attracts birds,” explained Duicker.
Town staff confirmed during the meeting that most grocery stores and hardware stores in town will sell the clear blue or plain clear garbage bags for recycling.
There was some confusion over composting as the green bins supplied by GFL had stickers showing household foods could be composted. McPhee clarified there was an error when sending the bins as the town can only collect yard waste during the summer months for its compost site. Duicker added that the summer months were designated for yard waste collection as that is the time plants grow.
Hazardous waste such as paint cans and aerosol cans are now accepted at the town’s transfer site and residents will be able to drop them off for free year round.
Duiker said since the program is new to Ponoka, for the short term the company will collect everything. As things progress he said residents may see a sticker to provide feedback on what is working and what isn’t.