Reuse centres are headed for closure, including the regional site in Trail.
It’s a done deal following a unanimous vote at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) board meeting last Thursday.
Regional directors agreed with the March 16 recommendation by the Committee of the Whole (Environmental Services) to begin shut down plans at the McKelvey Creek, Grand Forks and West Boundary (Greenwood) landfills.
The RDKB opened the three facilities more than 15 years ago, with a mission to divert a substantial amount of material from burial at the landfills.
Quantifying and monitoring diversion became a challenge over time, and the sites themselves created a host of public and staff safety concerns as well as traffic congestion, reported environmental services manager Alan Stanley.
“Over the past number of years, the diversion efficacy of the RCs (Reuse Centre) has diminished,” says Stanley. “Rather than a place for useful items, many customers use the RC’s as a mean to avoid tipping fees for items that have no reuse potential,” he added. “Staff monitors items and if the item is junk, they redirect it to the garbage bin.”
Additionally, RCs are often a source of discourse between staff and customers, he clarified.
“Conflicts can arise when people are told the items they want to drop off cannot go into the RC.”
Children being left unattended is another ongoing stressor that creates potential for serious harm because heavy equipment, hazardous materials and traffic are in close proximity to the reuse area.
Stanley notes the solid waste operations bylaw that states children under 13 must remain in a vehicle, but concedes there is a specific allowance for children in Reuse Centres if under direct supervision of an adult.
His report includes numerous real life examples of when youngsters were in danger, including two small girls running behind the recycle bins and almost hitting the electric fence while parents “shopped,” a six-year old wandering around recycling alone while the parent was in the reuse site, and a nine-year old riding a scooter from the bins to the reuse area.
When staff approached the parents in those three instances, the adults became argumentative.
Another child-related danger has also surfaced. Many items left behind for pick up, such as car seats, strollers, cribs and skating helmets, do not comply with safety standards.
Health Canada warns of the importance in checking that secondhand consumer products have not been recalled, as children have been injured and have died using recalled products, Stanley reported.
“There is no staff time to inspect every item left in the reuse centres,” he added, noting more than two dozen infant and child items as examples.
“Obvious items like car seats are removed…to comply with the regulatory obligations and properly ensure public safety for Reuse Centre users would require at least one additional staff member.”
Finally, staff feedback revealed the regular 10 to 15 users, are either re-selling the used goods or working for re-sellers.
“They typically show up early, stay long and ‘high grade’ items, often helping people unload items from their vehicles,” he said. “The activities of the regulars results in few decent items left for the occasional user,” Stanley added.
“Over the years attempts have been made to restrict times that the regulars hand out at the Reuse Centres, however this is hard to monitor with a small staff complement and directions given to the regulars can result in conflict.”
While the amount and quality of materials have dropped over the last five years, Stanley notes the advent of social media, and many free and used sites now being accessed throughout the West Kootenay.
“A review of these sites shows much activity and many very recent posts,” he said. “The range of local, free items that can be found is vast including many types of things that could not be accepted at an RDKB Reuse Centre.”
As the regional district begins planning site closures, there’s one Trail representative who’s not pleased with the move.
Coun. Robert Cacchioni voted against the shut down at a Committee of the Whole meeting prior to the board’s approval.
The city has been tackling illegal dumping and most recently added a $500 ticket for offenders.
He says closing the Reuse Centre will add to the ongoing problem of people dumping junk on the roadside.
“What happens is we end up with people bringing a load to the reuse centre, and it ends up in the dump anyway,” said Cacchioni.
“But it’s better that way than it ending up along the road, like Fort Shepherd, which people are complaining about now.”
He also contends that many people aren’t on Facebook or used websites, and those avenues could spell trouble.
“A lot of people aren’t online, so closing the Reuse Centre is taking away alternatives for people,” he continued. “And there’s always a danger when you put something up for free – you never know who is coming to your house.”
Diversion may not be substantial at the sites, but it comes with the territory, he concluded.
“Maybe we have to take a lot of the stuff out of the Reuse Centre and throw it away. But I’d rather have it thrown away in the landfill than thrown away in our forests and streams.”