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The municipality was trying to make one thing crystal clear: “No decision has been made yet about heavy garbage collection. Any residents who have placed heavy garbage out for collection are asked to immediately remove it from the curb/roadside.”
The Cape Breton Regional Municipality posted that message on its Facebook page Tuesday, intending to clear up any confusion about when exactly the annual residential heavy garbage pickup would take place.
Normally a springtime tradition, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year’s collection to move to the fall. This year, according to municipal officials, the date of the collection isn’t expected to be finalized during budget deliberations later this month.
But what prompted the CBRM to post the message, according to spokesperson Christina Lamey, was twofold.
“We heard from solid waste collectors that some people were placing their heavy garbage out on curbsides with their regular garbage,” Lamey said. “This was mainly an educational announcement to remind everyone.”
She said a date on residential heavy garbage pickup will be formally decided following council’s budget sessions, set for April 27-29.
Lamey also alluded to a recent media report of one CBRM councillor mulling the idea of moving heavy garbage collection from a yearly pickup to one occurring every second year.
But District 5's Eldon MacDonald, who proposed the idea, clarified that no formal motion has been put forth to council to suggest the change.
“In the past, we’ve had discussions about possibly having it every second year,” MacDonald said. “The heavy garbage tonnage has been roughly the same every year. And previous councils looked at an opportunity where you would call in if you needed something (heavy) taken away, as opposed to doing a blanket pickup.
“This is simply looking for a discussion to have, an opportunity for retention and finding cost efficiencies. I suspect this year it will stay in the budget as yearly.”
MacDonald, who says he figures the municipality could save about $250,000 a year with a switch to a biennial pickup, also downplayed the idea of making this a permanent change.
“If it was tried, and it doesn’t cause a rise in illegal dumping — which is everyone’s concern, including mine — then you’d be saving that $250,000 in that second year,” he said.
Even a discussion on a change doesn’t sit well with Deputy Mayor Earlene MacMullin.
“Last year, we had to move it to the fall because we needed to get the OK from the province that it was safe to do so,” McMullin said. “But you have to have it in the spring; that’s when most people do their spring cleaning. In the summer, you can’t have heavy garbage sitting out when it’s too warm outside.”
For Dylan Yates, the president and founder of the Cape Breton Environmental Association, illegal dumping is likely to increase even further if the heavy garbage collection moves to an every-second-year format.
'WHERE'S THE SAVINGS?'
“It will still be the CBRM’s responsibility to pick up the illegal dumped garbage,” Yates said. “And it will wind up costing them more, so where’s the real savings?”
The message of maintaining the annual heavy garbage pickup also needs to be made clearer to council, stresses Port Morien Wildlife Association president Jeff McNeil.
“We kept bringing this and the issue of illegal dumping up to council in the past, and we’d be turned away,” McNeil said. “Once, (District 4 Coun.) Steve Gillespie reached out to us, and he’s not even representing our district.
“And (Mayor) Amanda McDougall used to sit on the Nova Scotia solid waste resource management committee. I remember her spearheading the return of a heavy garbage pickup one year. Hopefully, she’ll remember that.”
Ian Nathanson is a political reporter with the Cape Breton Post.