DAILY NEWS Dec 2, 2013 3:50 PM - 2 comments

Getting tough on waste backfiring for Vancouver

New city staff report shows large increase in abandoned waste

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By: David Nesseth

Vancouver’s push to become the greenest city in the world by 2020 is getting some pushback.

A November 12, 2013 City of Vancouver staff report reveals that street litter and abandoned items have greatly increased in Vancouver over the last four years, as the teeth of provincial and municipal environmental policies have grown sharper.  

The increase in discarded mattresses may be the clearest example of how Vancouver’s green push has created an effect opposite to the one intended. Since the city implemented a $15 mattress recycling fee in 2011, the number of recovered mattresses has skyrocketed. In 2006, Vancouver recovered 2,700 mattresses from public property. The projection for 2013 is 11,683 discarded mattresses.    

Since the first phase of British Columbia's extended producer responsibility (EPR) program demanded that residents recycle appliances, electronics, furniture and other large housewares through depots, city data shows these forms of abandoned waste have tripled. When the EPR program began in 2006, about 6,800 such item were recovered from public property. For 2012, that number jumped to 21,500 recovered items.

New waste and recycling measures may also have led to some confusion among Vancouver residents. Since 2010, the number of calls made to the city’s 311 municipal information line has increased by a whopping 135 per cent.

A person caught illegally dumping material in Vancouver may have to remove the waste, repay the City for cleaning up the area, or pay a fine of up to $2,000 under the Street and Traffic Bylaw.

“The challenge is that it is difficult to catch people in the act,” states the staff report.

In 2012, eight per cent of Vancouver’s $7.8-million city cleaning budget went towards the recovery of abandoned waste, according to the staff report.

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Reader Comments

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On the plus side, Metro Vancouver recycling companies recycled over 90% of the 175,000 mattresses that were delivered to them in 2013 alone.

Posted December 3, 2013 06:53 PM

Sue Maxwell

This article needs some clarification as Vancouver the city does not have EPR programs. Those are mandated provincially and each one run independently by the stewardship programs. The first electronics one did not start until 2007 and subsequent ones and expansions rolled out after that. Perhaps the author meant to say landfill bans. Also one would expect calls to increase about solid waste as Vancouver has been very active in trying to reduce its waste, including rolling out organics collection. rather than backfiring, this may be an expected part of the process of changing citizen behavior and working to change a system. Kudos to the City of Vancouver for their leadership on this front.

Posted December 3, 2013 05:52 PM

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