The Garbage Project – The “Do What I Say Not As I Do” Edition – a peek into City Hall garbage (literally)

April 27, 2016 and another “Garbage Project” post. So let’s start with an update. The City of Red Deer passed the policy to reduce the household limit of garbage from 5 bags to 3 (500L to 300L per week). The blanket policy passed, even though the numbers make no sense. Those championing the policy may feel they have “won”, but the truth is they will never truly reduce garbage going to the landfill until they base the amount allowance proportionately (per occupant of the household) rather than per household. But enough on that for now, we will visit the changing face of Canadian households in another post.

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Up until 8:00 pm this evening this post was going to be taking a different direction, and then I went and picked up my son at the library, the library located right next to City Hall.

As I sat in the car I thought “Does City Hall Park have recycle bins?”, followed by “Okay kids, we’re going for a walk.”…….there is only one way to find out, and that is to look. We walked the whole of City Hall Park, and while we found plenty of garbage cans there were no units for the recycling of plastics, paper, organics or refundables. A bit surprising seeing as the City’s new limit is partly because they feel households are not directing items properly for recycling and yard waste.

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So I continued to walk, coming to the area the gardeners use for tools, incoming plants and such. I see the composters and think “great”. I see the sign on the composters mentioning the “Compost at Home” program, and this is also a good thing. But then you stop to think, why isn’t there a composter for visitors eating lunch in the park to use, for organics like apple cores and banana peels?

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Detail of the “Compost at Home” sign.

Now as I took the above picture I noticed a stench, and it wasn’t the composters, it smelled like garbage. It was bad. So I continued walking south down the sidewalk only to find a dumpster.

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The dumpster would not have caught my interest except for one thing. Can you spot it, the item that peaked my interest? Top right-hand corner……………the branch.

You see the City of Red Deer has a “yard waste” program which is used to divert yard waste from going in the landfill. Now this dumpster has to have some affiliation to the City of Red Deer as the only destinations on this block are City Hall Park, Red Deer Public Library and City Hall. Everyone connected to these organizations would know about the yard waste program, yet yard waste was visibly sticking out of a dumpster smelling of trash.

Now you all know what happened next…of course you do…..I went in for a closer look (wouldn’t you?!).

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And then closer yet!

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A quick glance and you can see yard waste (tree branch and grass clippings), recyclable cardboard,  recyclable plastics (coffee cup tops and clear plastic cups), refundable and recyclable bottles, food wrappers and a pair of shoes.

This is a visual of “public” garbage. This is a visual of “commercial” garbage. No separating out of recyclables, refundables or yard waste. Everything is “garbage” when it comes to “public” or “commercial” garbage.

This is garbage maybe 200 feet from City Hall.

The City says the residents need to do more, recycle more, divert recyclables and yard waste from the landfill, but this is what I find in the dumpster at the edge of City Hall Park. The dumpster, at the edge of City Hall Park, shows zero effort to divert waste appropriately from the landfill.

I think at this point we realize the waste reduction policy is a case of “do as I say not as I do”.

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So I carry on around the corner and decide to take a peek into the foyer of the library. I found a container for refundable bottles and cans and a blue bin (I will assume for paper waste from its position). So a little bit better.

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blog library blue bin

Of course there is room for improvement remembering that this space shares a cafe. What about recycling for non-refundable plastics (food containers), organics, and a more obvious spot for waste paper and newspaper. Also what about public education? The perfect spot to educate as people at the library are tuned in to reading and learning. After all how many people know what is included in the new expanded recycling program?

And so in one door and out the other (the design of the foyer, literally), and I was in front of the City Hall in seconds.

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I glance up to the window and see….garbage…….A LOT OF GARBAGE.

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So much garbage they need a cart to wheel it around.

Is this one day’s worth of garbage, or a week’s worth? It would be interesting to know. However in a building that is essentially an office building that is a lot of garbage.

Let’s think about it. Paper waste should be the bulk of waste in an office building, and that is recyclable. Our city is testing an organics program, so all lunch waste should be taken care of in that manner. Plastics such as bottles and food containers are recyclable , as are cardboards. A city so set on being “green” should have hand driers instead of paper towels in the washrooms, cutting down on washroom waste. So why does City Hall create so much waste?

Why does City Hall create so much waste while blaming households for the filling of the landfill?

Why is the dumpster on the edge of City Hall Park full of recyclable products?

blog city hall cigarettesI descended the steps of City Hall with many thoughts running through my mind, Only to see this…..

blog city hall cigarettes close up

…yes the lids are recyclable, and this is where the workers of City Hall stand daily having their “smoke break”. Not even the garbage could be deposited in the garbage can. Pretty sad.

The pictures speak for themselves. If City Hall wishes to reduce the volume of waste going to the landfill and increase recycling they need to set the example. They aren’t.

Now I am left wondering even more so the intent behind the waste reduction initiative. City Hall, City Hall Park and public buildings should be the poster child of being green. These are the places that are perfect for the education of the public, and the creation of new habits with regards to the management of waste. City Hall, which operates in a similar fashion to a commercial operation such as an office building, should be both an inspiration and a resource to the business sector.

After what I viewed this evening I had a thought, quite a sad thought actually. The thought was ……is the new waste reduction policy a way to place the blame of the quantity of waste going into the landfill on the homeowners in an effort to divert blame from commercial operations such as restaurants, fast food, and cafes? Think about it. Do you ever see paper, cardboard or plastics recycling at any of these places? No, only refundables (because they are worth money!). Have you ever seen organics recycling? Never. Everything goes in the garbage bin. A working couple might eat 11 meals at home during the week creating minimal organic waste, while restaurants feed hundreds daily creating mounds of half eaten food, plastic cups and cardboard and plastic containers.

Looking at the waste management in City Hall Park, in public buildings and in public spaces (such as parks), there is a big disconnect when being considered along the “waste reduction ” policy. The average household output of garbage was already well under the limit, which makes one wonder “what’s the real deal?”, because there is way more to this story than just waste reduction.


And now for this week’s stats:

This week we produced:

2.5 – 75L bags of garbage

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4-5 buckets of compost (I’ve been making dehydrated fruit resulting in a lot of peels…..that’s what happens when you get apples for $4 a case!)

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2 large bins of recycling (last week’s pic!)

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……plus refundable cans and bottles but no yard waste


Garbage around the block ( from our romantic midnight walk 🙂 ) , from this week on I will count each house even if no garbage is put out :

House 1 – 2 occupants – 2 .5 regular sized garbage cans (75-77L)

House 2 – 3 occupants – 1 regular sized garbage can , one large bin of recycling, 1 garden waste

House 3 – 2 occupants – 0 garbage, 0 recycling, 0 garden waste

House 4 – 2 occupants – 2 regular sized garbage cans (75-77L), three garden waste bins, one recycling

House 5 – 2 occupants – 2 garbage cans , half garden waste bin, half recycling bin

House 6 – 2 occupants – 0 garbage, 0 recycling, 0 garden waste (second week running, no bins out after pick up either)

House 7 –  0 occupants – 5 garbage bags (owner is still cleaning up after past renters, huge job)

House 8 – 1 occupant – 1 garbage bag , two recycling bins

House 9 – 1 occupant – 2 garbage bag , four garden waste bins, one recycling

House 10 – 3 occupants – 0 waste (they put out their garbage very late when they get in from work; last week one garbage bin and one yard waste)

House 11 –  7 occupants –  2.5 garbage bags , two large bins of recycling

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Stay tuned for next week. Who knows where looking at garbage will take us.

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