Metro Vancouver: Put waste in its place

METRO Vancouver says it has resources to help residents ensure their unwanted items get properly recycled or disposed of — not illegally dumped. 

Many local governments offer spring clean-ups or annual garage sales, while others will collect up to six large items per household annually, free of charge. Some allow residents to schedule a pickup that coincides with a regularly scheduled garbage day, or on a specific date with as little as a week’s notice.

“Local governments are doing their part to keep neighbourhoods clean and beautiful, and there are many great opportunities for residents to spring clean and make sure their waste gets put in its proper place,” said Jack Froese, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Zero Waste Committee. “Abandoned waste is expensive for taxpayers, time consuming for municipalities to clean up, leads to more waste, and can be harmful to people’s health and the environment.”

In 2020, Metro Vancouver municipalities reported more than 47,000 incidents of illegal dumping, an increase of eight per cent from 2019. Cleaning up and properly disposing of that abandoned waste and operating large-item pickup programs costs local governments about $5.8 million each year.

The most common types of abandoned waste include bulky items — mattresses, furniture, appliances, carpeting and tires — as well as green waste, household garbage and construction debris. 

“Most Metro Vancouver municipalities have bylaws that deal with illegal dumping and they have the power to impose hundreds of dollars in fines on anyone improperly disposing of waste,” said Sav Dhaliwal, Chair of the Metro Vancouver Board of Directors. “However, we encourage residents to show their pride in their communities, take initiative and appropriately deal with unwanted items.” 

Old mattresses, broken microwaves and expired car seats aren’t the only types of items that need to be considered. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the rise of a new kind of abandoned waste: personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves. 

Using disposable PPE has become an everyday practice. The region’s residents trashed more than 500 million pieces of PPE last year according to a recent waste composition study, and a significant amount of PPE has been found littered on streets and in green spaces, causing headaches for residents and municipalities alike.

Residents should dispose of used PPE properly, securely bagging it and putting it in the garbage. If they are sick or caring for someone who is, used PPE should be bagged a second time. Research shows that more than half of residents are using reusable masks, which can reduce or prevent waste.   

Visit wasteinitsplace.ca for waste disposal and donation options, and use the municipal search tool to find large-item disposal programs in your community. The site also provides information on safe PPE disposal options and tips for washing reusable masks.

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