Everything lovelier than trees to the RDKB

Those regional district staffers and elected directors who fancy themselves as environmental stewards are at it again.

Those regional district staffers and elected directors who fancy themselves as environmental stewards are at it again.

Vowing that the McKelvey Creek landfill will live long and prosper, they moved on the top threat to its existence – the trees and shrubs in your yard.

They haven’t banned the refuse created by these public enemies outright, but rather have raised the tipping fees on them. While it costs $20 a ton to deposit contaminated soil at McKelvey Creek, branches, twigs and other nefarious forms of woody plant growth now face a levy of $50 a ton.

Among other things, this threatens the bi-weekly yard waste pick-up service Warfield provides to its gardening citizens, which is pretty much everyone who lives in the village.

Residents received a memo recently informing them that they could no longer simply trim their hedges or rose bushes, bag the clippings and set them out at the curb. Now they can haul this toxic stuff to the dump themselves or presumably toss it over the nearest bank.

To put these items in with grass clippings runs the risk of the village being dubbed a mixed loader, and charged $95 a ton instead of the $3 a load it had been paying to deposit all manner of yard waste.

To get around this, the village’s contractor is now handling only bags of grass clippings, leaves and weeds, while the village crew drives around removing bundles of branches and dropping them at the landfill at a cost of $50 a ton. Villagers are left to chew on the small woody clippings they can’t bundle, or perhaps they can start a cottage industry and fashion them into wreathes or chip them for mulch.

Perhaps the biggest absurdity of the regional district’s reasonable-in-theory desire to keep the McKelvey site going as long as possible, is what they are still enthusiastically accepting grass clippings.

Any turf expert will tell you these are best left on your lawn to decompose and fertilize the up and coming sprouts. But instead the garbage experts happily watch as mountains of the stuff are trucked to the landfill every week from April through October.

I once asked a Regional District of Kootenay Boundary dump guy why there aren’t any user-friendly programs to divert this stuff. The RDKB could buy lawn mower mulching blades in bulk, or store coupons, and give them away or sell them at a nominal cost.  Then they could run a public awareness campaign on the benefits to the environment and your lawn of leaving the clippings in place.

His response was, “we don’t do that sort of thing.”  What the RDKB does do is offer seminars on how to create in-home worm farms using organic kitchen waste.

Hands up those of you likely to run up and down your basement stairs with containers of slop for the greater glory of the landfill. (Hail, Hail McKelvey, the glorious canyon of trash.)

All of this stems from the kind of bureaucratic command-and-control view of the world and nutty economics reflected in a conversation I had with another garbage expert a number of years back.

The RDKB was looking at local landfill options and was circulating a report detailing the costs of closing the existing site and creating a new dump in the area. Included in the cost of closing McKelvey was an estimate of decades’ worth of lost tipping fees.

I tried pointing out that if you built a new landfill the fees would be collected at that site.

No, the expert insisted, a full and responsible costing of the options must account for those lost fees. Decision-making proceeded on the basis that if you had two dumps you would suddenly have twice as much garbage.

McKelvey Creek is a great facility that should be husbanded to defer the economic and environmental costs of creating a new landfill and trucking our refuse further a field.

But trees are not the enemy. When the RDKB renovated its Rossland Avenue headquarters several years back, a contractor spent months drilling in the parking lot to install a ground thermal heat system to reduce the building’s “carbon footprint.”

When I inquired as to the magnitude of the extra cost of this undertaking, the response was “we don’t know, it’s part of the overall contract.”

Perhaps the thinking was that, given the analytical prowess displayed in costing dump options, what was the point.

But if the RDKB is serious about doing its bit to combat climate change, it should stop beating up on the trees and shrubs in its citizens’ yards. They are, after all, the biggest carbon sinks out there.

Raymond Masleck is retired Trail Times reporter.

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