Recycling bins at Strathcona Gardens to get the axe

Recycling bins at Strathcona Gardens will be removed but the depot at the Sportsplex will stay – at least for now

Recycling bins at Strathcona Gardens will be removed but the depot at the Sportsplex will stay – at least for now.

Jesse Lee, manager of Comox Strathcona Waste Management operations, said his staff is putting forward a recommendation to the Comox Strathcona Solid Waste board to keep at least one of the free community recycling depots.

“Our recommendation to the board is that we would close the Strathcona Gardens one, keep the Sportsplex one until further notice,” said Lee.

That provides a bit more certainty than the previous plan to remove the bins at Strathcona Gardens this fall and at the Sportsplex following the city’s introduction of curbside recycling at multi-family complexes.

But at Monday’s council meeting, Lee and Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for the Comox Valley Regional District, said they had a change of heart.

“I think we recognized in the preparation of this report (to the solid waste board) and in conversations that we should move more slowly and make sure the city does have its needs met,” Rutten said.

The Strathcona Gardens bins, however, are still on the chopping block as a cost-saving measure for the Comox Valley Regional District, which operates the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Service. The Strathcona Gardens bins, which take in 366 tonnes of recyclables per year, and the ones at the Sportsplex, which collect 352 tonnes per year, cost approximately $149,000 annually to operate. Of that, $36,000 is spent on clean-up due to misuse of the facilities, Lee said.

“Garbage is routinely dropped off at the depots, including hazardous waste, furniture and household refuse,” wrote Lee in a report earlier this year to the waste management board. “The abuse contributes to higher costs and neighbourhood complaints as a result of depot conditions. Unfortunately, residents use these depots as transfer stations and routinely drop off waste and other inappropriate materials.

“It’s kind of common to get chemicals dropped off,” Lee told city council. “We also get vandalism. Two bins were lit on fire (at the Sportsplex) two years ago at Christmastime.”

Lee said in the absence of the bins at Strathcona Gardens, residents who live in the central and downtown areas of the city can use the Island Return-It Centre on Willis Road.

But Coun. Larry Samson said that’s not the same and it’s not as convenient.

“It’s at the north end of town and it’s not readily available to the family who wants to do their recycling at night because they work all day,” Samson said. “They have to put the material on a cart, wheel it in and wait for someone to approach them – it’s not as handy.”

The other option is the Multi-Material B.C. facility at the dump on Argonaut Road but both Samson and Coun. Charlie Cornfield said that was even farther for the average family.

“It’s too far out of the city and without having an alternative for styrofoam and glass it goes into our landfills,” Cornfield said.

The Solid Waste Board was expected to make a decision on the recycling bins at its meeting yesterday at the Maritime Heritage Centre after the Mirror went to press.

Mayor Andy Adams wanted assurance that if the bins at Strathcona Gardens are going to go, that the ones at the Sportsplex do in fact remain in tact.

“Can you confirm that it is in the plan to keep Willow Point open indefinitely?” Adams asked.

After a lengthy pause, Rutten spoke up.

“I think indefinitely is a long time,” he said.

“It will not be closed until there is further discussion with the solid waste board, so there’s no imminent plan to close it,” Rutten said.