Solid waste survey to guide future plans

By Meg Olson

A county sponsored survey on the Point’s solid waste system drew a sturdy response and will help both Cando Recycling and Disposal and the county plan for the future.
At the January 10 meeting of the Point Roberts Community Advisory Committee (PRCAC) Jeff Hegedus from the Whatcom County Health Department presented the results of the survey, which drew 344 responses, though 31 of those were from one person.
More than half of the survey respondents were full time Point Roberts residents, but the survey also drew a strong response from seasonal residents. Most of the respondents had an association with Point Roberts longer than a decade, “indicating a strong commitment and sense of community,” Hegedus said.
More than half the survey respondents currently have curbside collection, either through regular service or by buying prepaid tags for irregular pickup. A solid majority said they were satisfied with the service.
Why then, Hegedus wondered, are only 300 homes signed up for curbside service, out of 2300? Without a sufficient customer base, he said, prices (which require state approval) are higher for the existing customers and the garbage service struggles to be economically viable. “We can’t have a turnover every six years,” he said. Six years ago Cando replaced Point Recycling and Refuse as the Point’s garbage service. “With no garbage service, things get
bad. Fast.”
Hegedus speculated better customer education would go a long way to getting more people on board. “Some people say it’s too expensive but actually it’s cheap,” compared to other locations in the county, Hegedus said.
Cando’s price for a 32-gallon can plus recycling every other week is $16.33. Nooksack Valley Disposal charges $17.80 for the same service, while Sanitary Services Company charges $11.98. In the San Juan Islands, San Juan Sanitation
charges $27.43.
“When you know how much it costs to keep trucks running, pay people, and get it where it needs to go, really, it’s cheap,” Hegedus said. Twenty-one percent of survey respondents who did not have curbside service cited the cost of service as the reason, 12 percent said curbside services were inconvenient while 38 percent said they preferred taking it to the transfer station for other reasons.
Cando owner David Gellatly said, “it’s as much of a community issue as a garbage issue.” With a limited customer base he can offer only very part-time work to his employees, which he then has difficulty retaining. “If I had even half as many customers as there are water connections I would have the truck out at least four days a week,” he said. “I could afford to hire regular personnel and give them a
real job.”
Several survey respondents and audience members said all developed properties should be required to pay for curbside service. Hegedus said that, while under county code solid waste and recycling collection are mandatory, “even though it’s required it’s sort of not required.” Exemptions are available for property owners who establish they are disposing of their trash “in an environmentally sound way.”
In addition, the county does not actively enforce the requirement, leaving it up to the garbage hauler to request legal action be taken against those that don’t comply. “That’s going to be part of our analysis,” Hegedus said.
Hegedus encouraged the community to review the survey results on the health department website (whatcomcounty.us/DocumentCenter/View/25142 ). The document also contains all of the comments received, from complaints about the transfer station cleanliness and requests for more recycling options to praise for
employees.
Hegedus will be back at the March PRCAC meeting with further analysis of the results and to collect public comment. He said they would try and identify what changes or improvements would have the most positive impact, from customer education to transfer station improvements. “If there’s a problem we want to have it well defined before we try and solve it,”
he said.

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