A printer was left right underneath the no-electronics sign in the re-use shed at RDBN’s solid waste management facility in Burns Lake on Nov. 28.

Regional district considers closing re-use sheds

“It has become apparent that the public has not been following posted rules regarding proper disposal of materials at transfer stations.”

Janine Dougall, director of environmental services for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN), submitted a memorandum to the RDBN’s board of directors on Oct. 15, 2014 titled Re-Use Shed Use and Salvaging.

The purpose of the memorandum was to bring forward information regarding the condition of the re-use sheds at RDBN’s solid waste management facilities and to recommend actions to the board of directors. The memorandum stated, “it has become apparent that the public has not been following posted rules regarding proper disposal of materials at transfer stations.”

“Members of the public continue to disregard signage, dumping garbage in the woodpile, ashes in the compost pile and choosing not to use the recycling facilities available on site for materials such as cardboard and paper,” read the memorandum. “Additionally, the state of most re-use sheds is abysmal. The public do not follow posted re-use shed rules, placing mattresses, electronics, small appliances, and broken items in the re-use area.”

In addition, the reports says that each and every transfer station site in the regional district sees a lot of salvaging activity, both in the wood and in the metal piles.

“Many people have been seen climbing on top of the piles and salvaging for certain items, which is dangerous and could result in serious injury, for which the RDBN is liable.”

In an effort to investigate the behavioural patterns surrounding the use of the re-use sheds, RDBN’s environmental services staff completed an observation project at the various waste management facilities across the region.

Carolynn Lane, sustainability assistant, visited each of the seven transfer station sites across the regional district.

Lane observed that dogs were on the sites at two different occasions; children were seen running around the re-use sheds; and a television was dropped off right in front of a “no electronics” sign.

“Unfortunately, the re-use sheds at RDBN solid waste management facilities have become unmanageable, and public behaviour surrounding the use of the sheds is contributing to continued verbal and physical abuse of RDBN staff and other members of the public,” Dougall said in the memorandum.

The report continues to say that, “given the extent of the behavioural problems, it is not a matter of if, but of when someone is severely injured at a RDBN solid waste management facility.”

Overall, the use and role of re-use sheds in soil waste management, with the advent of industry recycling programs, websites, free classifieds, and thrift stores has become “somewhat archaic and redundant,” according to the Dougall.

Two options regarding the future of re-use sheds were presented by RDBN’s environmental services to the board of directors.

Option one included employing additional staff to monitor and maintain the facilities. Other regional districts in the province have indicated that adequate staffing, time limits and fees associated with deposit of items into the shed or a per item pick fee are key variables for a successful operation. However, additional staffing costs could add up to $506,085 annually between all transfer facilities in the regional district.

Option two is to close the re-use sheds permanently and focus on educating the public on other available re-use and recycling opportunities, as well as promoting the concept of community garage sales and facilitating donation of large furniture items to residents in need through groups such as the Salvation Army.

A motion to close the re-use sheds permanently was not carried by the RDBN’s board of directors at the Oct. 23, 2014 board meeting.

Instead, a motion was carried to postpone the decision until such time that affected communities have been consulted. According to Dougall, the RDBN will be holding community consultations in the future regarding the use of re-use sheds, and only after the consultations the board of directors will make a decision on the future of the facilities.

“The consultation process has not been determined yet,” said Dougall. “It will be something that we look at and figure out in the new year [2015].”

In the meantime, the RDBN’s re-use sheds will remain opened.