By J.W. Schnarr
The message from Taber’s mayor is clear: those who abuse the new mandatory town recycling program will be fined.
During an open house on the new program, Henk De Vlieger told a large crowd that the town would not tolerate residents who do not use the three-bin system properly, including putting the wrong waste in bins, and that a bylaw would be coming to police those in the wrong.
“The beauty of the system is that every resident is responsible for their own garbage,” De Vlieger said. “If you don’t want to, great. We can police it. It’s not like your next door neighbour is going to get penalized for your behaviour. You’ll get penalized for your own behaviour.”
De Vlieger said while he understands the draw and convenience of the outgoing metal bin system, it is no longer an acceptable method for the town to deal with waste issues.
“It’s good for us all to become stewards,” he said. “I know, myself, my wife is an environmental fanatic. I’m a little lazy. I like my big bin once in a while, but I think it’s wrong. We have to become responsible.”
“Let’s all get together and get environmentally friendly,” he added. “Because if we don’t do it, it will be forced upon us.”
For those who are uninterested in recycling or who improperly sort their garbage, Chief Administrative Officer Greg Birch said the trash collector would be able to inspect the bins using a camera inside the truck. Improperly-sorted trash might not be collected, and instead left there for the owner to clean up before it would be collected again.
“We have a bylaw enforcement officer and other enforcement people, who will probably start by giving a gentle prod to people who are negligent about sorting. And they will be gentle at first, but, at some point, you might get a fine,” he said.
“But that’s not our first choice.”
Coun. Rick Popadynetz said the system itself would serve as a tool for educating local residents, as drivers will be checking to make sure the proper materials are placed in the proper bins. Incorrect placement of that material will result in stickers. He emphasized the goal is to help local residents learn more about how their new recycling program will help the environment, and help the bottom line, as large savings are expected to be culled from the new system. He also said he expects there to be an adjustment period as residents get used to the new system.
“The first time it comes, it’s going to be hard,” he said. “But people will eventually learn how to recycle.”
The idea of fining residents for improper recycling is not a new one. Several cities have imposed bylaws on their residents with fines ranging from $100 to $5,000. In Seattle, for example, a bylaw was enacted which allows repeat offenders to be fined $50 for putting too many food scraps in their garbage. In San Francisco, repeat offenders of their trash bylaw can be smacked with $100 fine, while businesses can be hit with a $500 fine.
De Vlieger said one of the driving factors for the change is that he expects the provincial government to force residents to become more active with recycling in the future, so it was better that residents be mandated at a municipal level.
“We have to start thinking about ourselves doing the right thing and being good stewards of mother earth. As council, we asked that ourselves. We have to be responsible for all the waste we have. If we don’t do it, I can tell you in a couple years from now, the government will tell us to do it. So why not be a step ahead?”
Birch said he suspected not all residents would buy in to the system.
“They are not going to be wanting to take part in the system,” he said.
But De Vlieger said the impact Taber residents leave on the environment couldn’t be ignored.
“We’re hard on the environment,” he said. “Even the pope has said we need to reduce our footprint on the environment.”
“This is the essence of what we are doing here,” said Birch. “We’re trying to save the planet.”
“You’re going to start saving money,” De Vlieger said. “You’re going to save it through composting.”
As a new recycling bylaw has not been officially discussed in council, it is unclear as to what kind of fines local residents could be facing for not buying in to the new program.
De Vlieger said every effort would be made to get everyone on board, however.
“It’s going to be a system of encouragement, first,” he said.
“We are living in a wasteful society,” he said.
“We create a lot of garbage.”