A pilot project in Castlegar to reduce human-bear conflicts by letting residents dispose of their smelliest garbage in public bins has been deemed a failure by city council and will end two months early.
The project saw bear-smart dumpsters placed at the Pioneer Arena and civic works yard on July 1. The idea was to give people a place to put their garbage between biweekly pickups during bear season.
Although the containers were supposed to remain in place until the end of November, council decided Monday to suspend the program effective Oct. 1 after city staff reported ongoing abuse. Rather than collecting small bags of household waste as intended, the dumpsters have been loaded with multiple large bags of garbage and left overflowing. Someone even dropped off a couch.
“We said off the bat ‘abuse it and lose it,’” said councillor Dan Rye. “It’s been a headache for staff.”
Corporate officer Tracey Butler said the city wanted to get a full season in on the experiment, especially since it has been an extremely active year for bear encounters due to a shortage of food in the wild. She called the bins a “double-edged sword,” for the garbage is at least accumulating in one place but has otherwise been challenging.
“One person dumped a whole truckload at Pioneer,” she said. “But it was not a Castlegar resident. It’s really tough. If we don’t have it, where is that garbage going? Are people using it to avoid tipping charges at the landfill?”
Councillor Cherryl McLeod said the city had the right intentions and wondered if more frequent pick-ups might help.
But Mayor Kirk Duff doubted it would have any effect because the problems only occur on weekends.
“The only way to police it is by having a person there,” he said. “That’s not very cost effective. As much as I’d like to go until the end of the season, my opinion is enough is enough. We warned if the abuse continued we would pull the service.”
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff suggested the program be cancelled by the end of this week, but council decided to keep it going for two weeks to allow more time to notify the public.
“It’s not working. Even without couches, it is full of garbage by Monday morning,” Heaton-Sherstobitoff said. “Even if you drive by Saturday night, there’s garbage all around it.”
Until the bins are removed, pick-up will be increased to three times a week at both locations.
City communications manager Bree Seabrook said the city has heard a lot of complaints about bear conflicts involving residential garbage this year, and even those who are responsible with their garbage have had problems.
The local WildSafeBC co-ordinator was grateful for the dumpsters, she added.