The City of Kamloops may be about to trash free landfill days.
On Monday, the civic operations committee heard from staff that free landfill days — held at the Mission Flats and Barnhartvale landfills since 2005, typically in the spring — were initially intended to encourage community cleanup projects.
“That’s not quite what it’s turned into now,” city environmental services manager Glen Farrow said.
In the last five years, he said, the initiative has resulted in more recyclable materials ending up in the landfills, as well as unsafe situations and headaches for staff. The committee heard that residential waste is accepted on such days and the financial incentive for customers to separate recyclables from the garbage is essentially removed. The days have become increasingly busy.
The five-year average for the number of people who turn up is more than double that of a typical springtime Sunday, at 517 customers compared to 239, according to the city.
People end up waiting for long periods of time with unsecured loads, sometimes with vehicles backed up to the train tracks near Mission Flats. The city said the situation can lead to people not adhering to on-site directions and even urinating in public. The city also notes “verbal abuse” toward city and contractor staff has increased due to wait times and attempts by residents to dispose of items not permitted at landfills.
In addition, due to how busy the days are, staff are not able to scrutinize loads as heavily, a report to the committee states.
Farrow said other communities do not offer such services, recommending it is time to scrap the initiative altogether. He suggested the city instead encourage people to request tipping fees be waived on a case-by-case basis, for projects like riverbank or neighbourhood cleanups.
“Get rid of the one day of chaos,” Farrow said.
Committee member Coun. Bill Sarai pondered if the city could instead offer free landfill days on multiple dates to discourage one busy day, based on addresses or other criteria.
“In my opinion, I think some of those people, if you eliminate this one-day event, that they’re either going to end up in our back roads or on the side of our street,” Sarai said. “We’ve already closed two or three of our recycling yards and we noticed just from that people weren’t persuaded or inclined to come to the landfills.”
Farrow said more research would need to done on such a project, but noted the city’s capital plans include the closure of the Barnhartvale landfill.
The committee voted unanimously to send to council a recommendation to eliminate free landfill day events and promote the ability for residents and community groups to apply for tipping fee waivers. The city waived about $16,000 in tipping fees each free landfill day at Mission Flats from 2015 to 2019.