Recycling audits ongoing

Curbside recycling audits are coming to a neighbourhood near you. In fact, they already have.

Recycle-It Resource Recovery owners Lindsay and Tyrell Heal hit the streets the morning of Aug. 14 to inspect blue bins in Sunset Ridge. They worked in tandem, auditing the neighbourhood on bikes, and found Sunset Ridge to be a relatively clean sweep. Of the bins, only four were contaminated, and found with glass bottles, food waste, dog poop, and used diapers.

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“Everything that we tag we document with pictures, just so when they do get a ticket, we do have back up evidence because sometimes people will try to dispute it,” said Lindsay Heal. “I’ve yet to come across someone that says, ‘I’m sorry I did it, it won’t happen again’. Everyone has an excuse.”

Recycling contamination has been an ongoing problem in Fort St. John, and the city has issued $2,000 in fines so far this year. 

The Recycle-It depot is the collection hub for the city's curbside recycling program, and carries out regular audits of residential blue bins. A July 13 audit found 291 bins contaminated, and an audit on July 27 found 373 bins contaminated.

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Liquor bottles are a common find in many Fort St. John recycling bins, as seen here in this bin outside a home in Sunset Ridge, Aug. 14, 2020. Glass bottles are banned from the blue bin as they often break into shards while being collected and delivered to the recycling depot. - Tom Summer

As part of the process, auditors upload pictures to a database that can be accessed by city bylaw officers, who then issue a warning or fine. Tags are placed on blue bins that have been contaminated, and notices are placed on residences that are repeat offenders.

“It almost looks like an eviction notice when you come, taped right to the door. It’s great, you want that shock and awe,” Heal said. “It’s back to what I said before, if you don’t want to participate, that’s your right, your choice. But don’t ruin it for everybody else.”

Auditing, however, is very labour intensive, Heal said. She hopes the city will make the move to automated cameras, which would allow drivers to take snapshot evidence at the press of a button as recycling enters a collection truck. 

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A recycling bin in the Sunset Ridge neighbourhood in Fort St. John fails an audit, Aug. 14, 2020. - Tom Summer

Email reporter Tom Summer at tsummer@ahnfsj.ca

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