Budget pressures may be driving the city and regional district's decision to change the operation of solid waste disposal in Prince George, but that doesn't mean it's not an opportunity for waste reduction.
As of April 1, household garbage will no longer be accepted at the Quinn Street transfer station and on July 1, a $6 fee will be introduced for small loads at the Foothills dump.
The Regional District of Fraser-Fort George will assume responsibility for both the Quinn and Vanway transfer stations May 1 and is expected to continue to operate them the way the city has already prescribed.
City solid waste supervisor Chris Bjorn confirmed that there would no longer be the $6 fee charged by the city at the Quinn location after April 1. It will still accept yard waste and recycling materials.
"Once the regional district takes over, I can't say," he added.
Last month, city council also authorized the creation of a pilot program to allow residents to pay to have excess household garbage picked up at the curb for a $3 fee for each additional bag.
Terri McClymont, executive director of REAPS (Recycling and Environmental Action and Planning Society) said she told members of council she was shocked at the move.
"With the garbage bylaws, they're already allowing four garbage bags," McClymont said. "If you look at their bylaws and look at the definition of garbage, recyclables is not considered garbage. So looking at that I was hoping they would try to encourage more recycling opportunities in Prince George."
The city's garbage collection regulations defines garbage as "waste material other than automobile parts, construction, land clearing and demolition waste, animal carcasses and parts, furniture, recyclable material, special waste."
With 17 stewardship programs and 14 recycling depots in the city, McClymont said there's no shortage of options to practice the three Rs - but the effort has to be made to change the routine of residents.
"I know residents are being motivated to recycle. I get lots of calls asking 'where can I recycle this? Why aren't we doing this?'" McClymont said.
As of next May, the producers of packaging and printed paper will be legislated by the province to collect and recycle the materials they supply. This legislation threw a wrench into the regional district's plans to have curbside recycling locally.
Whatever is implemented once a plan is in place will be significantly cheaper than the municipality getting its own service going and then having to change the model again so soon, McClymont said.
"People have to understand that it's a cost," she said. "And yes, we should have it, yes we need to have it but yes, you need to do your part too."
That can involve changing one's buying habits, to purchase items in packages that are readily recycled in town or have little to no packaging at all. It can also mean finding alternative uses for things that have outlived the purpose of their original owner.
With closure of the physical swap shed at the Foothills dump last December, the virtual swap shed online at FreecyclePG (groups.yahoo.com/group/freecyclepg) is bustling.
The nine-year-old site has more than 2,000 members McClymont said, noting people are posting to hand off or pick up tangible items such as furniture, appliances and vehicles.
REAPS is partnering with the regional district for the second Junk in the Trunk event on April 20 to coincide with Earth Day two days later. It will provide those without the ability or desire to hold their own garage sale to rent a stall for the day at the CN Centre parking lot and sell off their previously enjoyed treasures from their car trunk.
The regional district's proposed increase in tipping fees is also a good thing for waste reduction, McClymont said.
To help pay for the closure and post-closure care of the Foothills landfill, the regional district board is considering a progressive tipping fee rate increase over the next seven years - which would eventually bring it from the current $57 per tonne to a maximum of $90 per tonne.
"And increasing our tipping fees also encourage the [industrial, commercial and institutional] sector to look at other ways of diverting waste that could be used, so we're not just landfilling our raw materials that still have life in it."
REAPS has a detailed waste reduction directory that's updated every three months, outlining where residents can take back everything from asbestos to wood waste. It's available online at www.reaps.org or by calling their Gorse Street office at 250-561-7327.