Comox Strathcona Waste Management is asking people to stay away from landfills unless absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of residents and employees of the facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
CSWM General Manager of Engineering Services Marc Rutten said that while the district does not plan on stopping regular pick up, limiting the amount of traffic to the landfills is essential to keep people safe.
“If you do a big yard clean up, just store that in your yard and you can bring it up later once things settle down,” he said. “If you have access to curb side collection, if you live in any of the municipalities across the two regional districts or you live in a rural area that has curb side collection service, then there’s really no need for you to go to the landfill.”
CSWM operates landfills and waste management programs in two regional districts, Comox Valley Regional District and Strathcona Regional District. Two major landfills fall under its purview, one in the Courtenay area and one in Campbell River. As of March 24, those were still fully operational and plans were to keep them running. Recycling centres in electoral areas have been closed, but garbage transfer will continue operating.
“If you shut your landfills and people are storing waste at home, that’s going to create a bunch of other issues and health issues. We understand that,” Rutten explained. “We’re trying to maintain and keep everything open.”
Municipalities in the SRD will continue to have curb side pickup, as will rural areas that currently have the service.
“We do understand that there are residents with no curb side pick up that going to the landfill is really their only option. We want to stay open for them, and so far we’re permitted to do that,” Rutten said. “If there’s provincial changes that come down, we’ll have to respond to those.”
Though no measures concerning the closure of landfills or suspension of services have been mentioned at the provincial level, Rutten does not expect the system would be shut down completely. Health risks would only increase if garbage is left within communities, and at least some form of waste disposal services would likely be deemed essential.
CWSM is currently operating under a full staffing level, but some employees have requested to be allowed to self-isolate. Staff who show signs of any illness are asked to stay home.
“Our workforce is down right now because of those extreme precautionary measures. We’re still functioning, we still have enough staff, but as those things continue to progress, we are going to see some staff challenges,” he said.
Recycle BC, the organization responsible for paper and packaging recycling in the province has issued a notice saying that some residential recycling operators have suspended service in the province. The Return-It depots in Campbell River, Courtenay and Comox have all closed until further notice. Recycle BC does ask people to keep their recycling until services resume.
Rutten said that other recycling programs, which include curbside pick up of recyclable materials is continuing, and drop off locations are still open.