Make landfill last, says consultant

  • Jan. 30, 2008 11:00 a.m.

By Heather Ramsay–Islanders need to reduce the amount they throw in the garbage so the landfill lasts longer. Judging from the amount islanders throw out now, the islands’ only landfill will last little more than three decades, says Laurie Gallant of Footprint Environmental Strategies who was hired by the Regional District in July to conduct solid waste management review. She was on islands last week to attend the Jan. 22 Islands Solid Waste Advisory Committee meeting. Ms Gallant says ensuring the landfill lasts longer is one of the highest goals the communities should strive for, because she can’t in good conscience recommend creating another. “It’s a huge impact. Landfills displace ecosystems and create concerns around leachate, especially when it comes to ground and surface water as well as methane gas,” she says. The longevity of the landfill is not the only concern. Ms Gallant says the annual cost of the landfill exceeds the amount islanders are paying into it. She and regional district staff are going over the waste management bylaw including, container sizes, weekly limits and the method of billing for garbage services. The three municipalities and the regional district areas do quarterly billings based on volume (there is a two bag limit per week). In Skidegate and Old Massett, the band councils contribute to the cost of the landfill based on population. This agreement is inconsistent with the 1994 Islands Solid Waste Management Plan which determined fees should be volume-based she says. Another part of the problem has been keeping good records of what is going on,” says Ms Gallant. Some of the simplest parts of the system are not being monitored, like how many garbage tags are sold in the Queen Charlotte region. People can buy garbage tags at Sam’s if they are leaving more than two bags out. Ms Gallant wanted to know how many are sold every year, so the RD can plan for months that have more tag requests, but the vendor does not keep track of sales. With the entire solid waste management system under review, she says, “if one part of the system isn’t working, it effects the rest of the system.” Ms Gallant and RD staff also met with the islands garbage collection contractor last week. The collection contract expired in Dec., but the RD exercised an option to renew it for 6 months rather than a year. Ms Gallant says that will give the RD and the contractor time to make some changes to the collection services. “Certain aspects are not working well now,” she says. She said enforcement of the two-bag limit is essential and the RD will review the option to stop and start service when residents are away. She says the system hasn’t been reviewed since 1994 and a new approach is needed. Many communities are opting for Zero Waste plans. She wants to improve recycling services on the islands as well, but this too costs money. Many who complain about the cost of garbage services cite the fact they don’t put out two bags per week, don’t realize their quarterly billings are paying for recycling too, she says. One thing the RD will be costing out is a glass crusher. She says with the right machine, the final product can be used as aggregate and landscaping. Recycling bins across the islands also need to be replaced, as they are of poor design (ever tried to stuff cardboard in one?) and there are not enough. Ms Gallant thinks Islanders should be concerned about their landfill as it is the only one on the islands. Landfill experts Sperling Hansen project at the current disposal and compaction rates, the site will be full by 2044.