By Trevor Busch
Front curb residential pick up for waste collection was an unpopular choice in the Town of Taber’s 2023 Waste Collection Survey.
Some 39 per cent of respondents weighed in as “strongly against” moving all residential cart pick up to front pick up, 12.1 per cent were “against”, and 20.5 per cent were “neutral/no opinion”. Only 28.4 per cent were in favour or strongly in favour.
In November 2022, council directed administration to investigate the feasibility of front pick up of all carts. Council had requested public feedback be garnered on the feasibility of moving carts to front-curb pickup in response to complaints about residents leaving their carts in the alleyways after collection is complete.
As part of the public involvement a survey was determined to be an easy and accessible way of garnering public feedback on front pick up. Administration went one step further to do additional evaluation on the entire waste collection system, as it will reach its seventh anniversary of implementation in May.
The survey link was sent in a letter to all residential addresses in Taber. There were 358 respondents out of a possible 3414 for a 10.5 per cent response rate, which “far exceeds any other survey or public participation the Town has done in the recent past, and exceeds the typical percentage that Municipal Administrators expect from public participation – we typically hope for 3-5 per cent return rate.”
“I really liked the suggestion of adding an app,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “I know that there are some communities that have it and it notifies you when your carts are going to be picked up, it can also answer what goes in what bins, and I think that could be a very good asset to residents, and very helpful, if that’s feasible.”
In the survey, 60.4 per cent of respondents indicated they had used the coupon voucher system at the transfer station, while 95.8 per cent would like to see the program continued. Some 69.1 per cent said they would like to see higher rates of enforcement by the Town, while only 47.5 per cent said they utilize the free compost available to residents, and the same percentage make use of the free compost drop-off location at the transfer station. Some 46.9 per cent utilize the 80th Avenue location.
At the Taber Police Station, 70.8 per cent said they use the recycling drop-off bins. Some 42.4 per cent said don’t use the free recycling drop off stations at the transfer station, while 37.4 responded that they do.
Some common themes and comments from the public included “brown carts need to be larger”, “recycling should be picked up more often”, “bring back compost bags”, and “enforce the bylaw of carts being left out.”
Several councillors were surprised to learn the Town no longer accepts glass in the blue recycle carts.
“I do find it perhaps worthwhile looking into a battery recycling service, and I wasn’t aware that we don’t recycle glass because I think I’ve been putting glass in my recycle bin,” said Coun. Joanne Sorensen, a sentiment later echoed by Coun. Garth Bekkering.
Waste services manager Lisa DeBona indicated this change was implemented by the recycling facility in Lethbridge.
“That’s because of where it’s going to, they don’t accept glass, so we had to pull it out, per se, for them. It’s hand sorting, and it’s hazardous to their staff that do the sorting, and it makes a mess. So they don’t like it – that’s in Lethbridge. We’ve been looking at different places to take it to.”
Public works director Gary Scherer said the Town has been experiencing serious problems with recycling collection.
“We’re having a lot of trouble with recycling. People are throwing garbage into recycling. Our recycler is now saying, ‘Look, we’re going to have to charge you more.’ It’s actually gone so far that they’ve found dead animals – one dog, two cats and a skunk this year.”
Following discussion, council unanimously passed a trio of motions. The first directed administration to investigate the cost and feasibility of an app to assist residents with waste collection; the second directed administration to investigate research into cost, labour and available contractors for the ability to recycle batteries; and the third directed administration to carry out the action items as outlined in the 2023 Waste Collection Survey Results Action Plan.