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To bag or not to bag, that is the green question

With City of Trail's spring clean up program underway, does the use of plastic bags do more harm than good?
Mountains of plastic bags filled with clippings lie unopened at the landfill.

It has been said that the road to a certain hot place is paved with good intentions, but in today’s world, that road is also lined with plastic bags.

As the City of Trail began its 2013 spring clean-up program, many residents dutifully rake and clip and place compost curbside to be hauled off to the dump, all tidy and in a plastic bag.

The problem is, that once those bag of trimmings hit the landfill, and the plastic is mulched along with the yard waste, hills of useless garbage is created.

“I think that people understand the inherent contradiction in putting garden material in a plastic bag,” said Allan Stanley, director of environmental services for the RDKB.

“And I don’t think it is a big stretch to ask them to change their habits.

“We also know that the best way to manage some of this stuff is on site, in your own yard, with back yard composting,” he added.

Stanley said that it is recognized that a fair bit of plastics continues to go into the landfill, but they ask if people do transport garden waste in plastic bags, to empty it onto the piles and take that bag home to reuse it.

“This just creates a better and cleaner product.”

Stanley said that the quality of the “grind” depends on what goes into it.

If the grind consists of clean wood, then it can be composted and beneficially reused as compost.

Some of the “dirtier” wood from that comes from construction demolition programs is mixed with soil and used as cover for garbage or as a valuable additive for slope stabilization.

But the endless mounds of mulch mixed with plastic requires further measures to render it useful.

“The material is compost and will be used as a soil amendment. Prior to use, it will be screened to remove contaminants,” said Stanley.

He explained that the RDKB only holds the “keys to the landfill”, and its bylaws apply at the gates.

“How each city wants to collect is its own business.”

Larry Abenante, Trail’s public works manager, said that Trail is one of the few municipalities that continues to provide the service.

Abenante said that the city will not be “debagging” the large amount of garden waste it amasses for transport.

“We are expected to pay tipping fees, which is why we ask that branches be tied and bundled (hauled separately), and garden refuse and grass clipping be in clear bags only,

“For us, you have to look at efficiency, and the cost to the city. We can’t pay to have guys there just to debag everything.”

The City of Trail sets aside over $23,000 in its budget for spring clean-up and $25,000 for the fall.

Additionally, the city requests that only clear plastic bags be used to bag leaves, grass, garden waste and branches up to six inches in diameter.

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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