Waste Cart Audits Kick Off Year-Long Sort It Right! Campaign
Port Coquitlam started checking the contents of waste carts at multi-family complexes this week as part of a year-long push to help the city avoid fines and meet its ambitious waste-diversion targets.
The Sort it Right! campaign will use cart audits, public education, and new training sessions and volunteer champions to help people sort their waste properly and boost Port Coquitlam’s diversion rate – waste diverted from the landfill – from 66 per cent to the regional 80 per cent target by 2020.
“Past audits tell us our city’s total household garbage could be cut in half if everyone disposed of their waste properly,” Mayor Greg Moore said. “We see our residents as our partners in this, and we encourage them to take advantage of the waste-sorting support and resources we provide.”
Because multi-family complexes typically have the most sorting problems, the city started its audits at the 125 complexes that receive city waste services. If the wrong materials are found in the carts, the city will provide educational materials and offer on-site resident training sessions.
Volunteer champions are also being recruited in multi-family complexes and neighbourhoods across the city to help coach their neighbours. Training and resources will be provided, and those interested can contact 604-927-5254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Complexes and neighbourhoods can also book an on-site training session using the same contact information.
Waste cart audits will roll out this spring to the city’s 13,217 single-family homes, and this fall to the 380 business properties receiving city waste services. Tags will be left on the carts to identify any sorting problems, and Sort it Right! educational materials will be offered. Continuing problems will result in a warning letter with additional education. On the third occurrence, fines of up to $300 will be issued (discounted if paid within two weeks).
“We understand that sorting waste can be confusing. Our hope is that people will take the opportunity to educate themselves, so that enforcement isn’t needed,” noted Cllr. Darrell Penner, who chairs the Transportation Solutions and Public Works committee. “It’s critical we make progress on this issue to avoid costly fees and fines that will eventually affect all taxpayers.”
Port Coquitlam households dispose of more than 14,000 tonnes of waste each year – about 35 per cent garbage, 20 per cent recycling and 45 per cent green waste. However, waste cart audits show it would be possible for households to cut their garbage by more than half and redirect it to their recycling or green carts, a recycling depot or a take-back program.
The most common contaminants in recycling carts are plastic bags, garbage, food waste, scrap metal, electronics and glass. The worst problems in green carts are plastic bags and garbage, and in garbage carts they are food waste, paper, recyclable plastics, electronics, scrap metal and glass.
Contaminated green and blue carts aren’t sorted – the contents are simply sent to the landfill.
Aside from the environmental benefits of sorting waste properly, significant money is at stake if sorting doesn’t improve. Low recycling contamination is critical because recyclables are sold as a commodity, yet Port Coquitlam consistently exceeds Recycle BC’s three per cent contamination cap.
If recycling sorting doesn’t improve, the city could be fined $5,000 for each contaminated load, up to a maximum of $150,000 for residential customers. Higher rates could also be charged by Metro Vancouver for ongoing mis-sorting of green waste and garbage. These extra costs would ultimately be passed on to taxpayers.
The campaign dovetails with Port Coquitlam’s Ambassador program, introduced in 2015 to educate residents about waste-sorting, water-use restrictions and bear safety. The Ambassadors can be seen around the community at events such as Port Coquitlam Farmers Markets, and are available to provide customized presentations to groups, neighbourhoods and schools.
For more information about the Ambassador program, to ask a question, or to request a presentation or resources, visit www.portcoquitlam.ca/ambassadors. Residents can also email the Ambassadors directly at email@example.com or call 604-927-5496.
Residents are encouraged to go to www.portcoquitlam.ca/sortitright for a wide variety of waste-sorting information and to use the Sort it Right! search tool to find out how to properly dispose of their waste.
A mobile version of the search tool is included in the City’s free PoCo Waste-Line app, which can be downloaded from that page and includes customizable collection schedules and alerts, and a problem-reporting function.
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For additional information, contact:
Tom Madigan, Manager of Solid Waste and Fleet
Engineering & Public Works Department
City of Port Coquitlam