Illegal dumping. It’s a hot topic in Vancouver… but not all neighbourhoods are equal offenders.
How do the city’s boroughs stack up when it comes to mattresses, construction waste, and trash bags dumped stealthily under the cover of darkness?
CKNW looked at 311 calls for 2015, then crunched the numbers to get an idea of where the dumping problem is the worst.
TRASHMAP: Click below to see how Vancouver’s neighbourhoods stack up on illegal dumping
The City of Vancouver saw 679 calls for illegal dumping last year.
The worst offender was the east side neighbourhood of Kensington-Cedar Cottage, with 61 calls.
Close behind are Downtown (minus the West End) with 51, and Kitsilano with 50.
Arbutus Ridge and Shaughnessey and Arbutus Ridge, with 13 each, followed by Oakridge and West Point Grey at 16 each.
Those numbers also account for 311 dumping calls – often for large items. They don’t reflect the wider problem of trash on city streets like that highlighted by the so-called “Knight Street Hero.”
Monkey see-monkey dump
“We’re probably generating a good portion of those calls,” says Charles Gauthier, president of the Downtown Vancouver Business Association.
He says downtown, one of the worst hit areas, illegal dumping is a recurring issue.
“It encourages others to dump as well, and if they see an abandoned mattress or construction material, they think it’s a free for all and people start adding to the pile. And so that’s the big concern – that if it’s not addressed immediately it will unfortunately lead to other people doing the same kind of unwanted actions.”
But he says in recent months the city has been working to tackle the issue, concentrating on problem alleys and trying to do pickups quickly to discourage other dumpers.
“We’ve noticed a difference. That’s the key thing.”
But he says he’d still like to see more – like the city offering a monthly “free pickup” day for large items, so that people without cars who can’t make it to the transfer stations don’t try to sneakily dispose of their large items instead.
TRASHMAP: All 2015 illegal dumping calls (estimated by hundred block)
Tackling the Trash
The city of Vancouver says it has, indeed, gotten serious about tackling the trash.
Earlier this year it approved measures to try to punish offenders, including a slew of new fines, the heftiest up to $10,000, and improved pathways to get dumping prosecutions to court.
Vancouver’s Director of Waste Management Albert Shamess says the department’s budget has also been increased to try to address the issue, and he says they’ve mostly concentrated their extra efforts Downtown and on the DTES.
He says since the beginning of the year they’ve handed out three larger fines totalling $7,500 and have a few more pending.
“And so you’re starting to get up there into fairly significant chunks of money. And that’s in addition for paying to clean it up.”
He says the department has also been given ticketing authority if it catches people red-handed, and plans to start rolling those out this summer.
But Shamess says part of the problem’s persistence is linked to another issue that’s giving Metro Vancouver a headache… You guessed it: housing.
“A lot of it has to do with the increased development, there’s a lot of construction going on. A lot of what we’re finding now is construction and demolition waste.”
Shamess says the city is also looking into launching a 2017 pilot project along the lines of what Gauthier suggests. He says it’s currently looking into ideas around either large-item pickup days, or perhaps allowing people a limited number of free or low cost calls for large item pickups.