Elizabeth Taylor is tired of the “gong show” – of household garbage left at curbsides every day of the week, bringing black bears into places where people live. Sooner or later, she says, it’s going to end badly.
“It’s just not working, it’s just not working,” Taylor said Monday.
Taylor has created a petition on change.org, to make her case for city-wide pickup in Maple Ridge.
“This city has no waste management system at all. Citizens hire private waste services, resulting in garbage being picked up every day of the week. This has created a daily garbage buffet for the native black bears,” she says on the webpage.
Unlike most cities, garbage collection in Maple Ridge is left to four or more companies competing for contracts to haul away trash from curbside.
With different pickup days throughout the week, Taylor says garbage cans can be on the street every day of the week, creating a convenient, but possibly deadly, snacking schedule for bears.
“When a kid gets killed by a bear, if it was my kid, I would be suing them for every penny. Because it’s very clear that they’re putting people at risk with their irresponsible waste-management practices.
“We need to have a city-wide system of dealing with city-wide waste.”
She’s made the case before, almost three years ago, when a garbage bear was bothering neighbours along 100B Avenue, in Albion.
Now, another bear, a two-year-old, is munching on leftovers and has been visiting back yards in Albion for the past month and a half.
“On Thursday, he was sitting behind a house waiting for the garbage to come out. So when a woman brought her garbage out, over he came and grabbed it. So he’s totally habituated.
“I found him on my back porch and I have two big dogs.”
Taylor says with no compulsory garbage pickup and people free to do as they like with garbage, by either signing on with a garbage hauler or taking the trash to the Maple Ridge Transfer Station, people either composting their kitchen waste or store it for weeks, all the while attracting sensitive noses.
“It seems to me like it’s the wild west of garbage,” she said. “You can do whatever you want. You can store it for a month, attract the bears.
“We’re luring them in with our nonsensical methods.”
Taylor’s petition has collected about 70 names and will send it on to Maple Ridge, the Ministry of Environment and Metro Vancouver at some point.
Her campaign came Monday as council looked at the latest staff report on the issue.
The report re-stated projections of how much homeowners would have to pay to have city-wide garbage pickup.
If Maple Ridge contracted out garbage pickup to a single private company, people would pay between about $300 annually on their tax or utility bill.
If Maple Ridge city operated its own waste-collection system, the cost would be about $350 yearly.
The report says the costs would be equivalent to what people are now paying for private pickup.
However, it would be a cost increase for those who take their garbage to the Maple Ridge transfer station.
Coun. Gordy Robson disputed the cost of private collection and said the geographic area for pickup should be defined.
Robson said council needs details of all costs that will be part of curbside pickup.
Municipal engineer Dave Pollock told councillors that in addition to pickup costs, there would be staff administration costs, plus costs of about $25 a year per household to provide bear-proof garbage containers.
“I think all of these numbers right now are highly speculative,” added Mayor Nicole Read.
She’s concerned about misinformation and said other city’s contracts are difficult to compare.
But Pollock said unless a request for proposals is issued and companies come back with formal bids, the numbers won’t be precise.
“I just can’t give definitive numbers at this point.”
Nevertheless, staff have some confidence in the costs in the report, added public works manager Frank Quinn.
“It’s about as close to accurate as we can get. If we don’t like the numbers, we don’t like the numbers. That’s just how it is,” said Coun. Craig Speirs.
But he said the costs estimates are fairly accurate.
He said it only costs him about $60 annually to take the household garbage to the Maple Ridge transfer station, instead of hiring a private hauler for curbside pickup.
About 40 per cent of Maple Ridge residents don’t want municipal garbage pickup, he added.
He warned council about taking on the service, offered by most other cities in Metro Vancouver.
“One thing for sure, if we go down this route, we’ll own the complaints and we’ll own the problems.”
Multi-Material B.C.’s role in collection must also be clarified. It could take over collection of all recycling.
The report also notes that combining garbage and organic waste pick up could be cheaper.
Instead, Speirs said Maple Ridge should just encourage competition between the garbage-hauling companies and regulate the days when pickup takes place to minimize the number of collection days.
Currently, with four private companies picking up garbage, four vehicles can be on a particular suburban road on the same day.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan said council needs to clarify the question and decide what it wants, rather than constantly asking for more information.
Council voted to have Couns. Bob Masse and Speirs get more information and come up with a possible question that could go to the public.
Taylor says Maple Ridge should create an innovative, eco-responsible waste collection system.
But she doesn’t hold out too much hope.
“It’s never going to change. Couns. Craig Speirs and Gordy Robson are adamant we’re never going to do it. It will cost us more.”