June 4 was a slow day at the Semiahmoo Bottle Depot, according to owner Heimin Lee. (Tracy Holmes photo)

June 4 was a slow day at the Semiahmoo Bottle Depot, according to owner Heimin Lee. (Tracy Holmes photo)

South Surrey bottle-depot owner calls for decorum among customers

Heimin Lee said his Semiahmoo recycling facility has been ‘like a war zone’ since Easter

Business has always been steady at the Semiahmoo Bottle Depot, but owner/operator Heimin Lee says since reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, the South Surrey business feels like “a war zone.”

Describing an increase in the number of complaints, customers’ impatience, illegal dumping and ignoring of rules in recent months, Lee said he is at his wits’ end.

“We need some customer co-operation,” he told Peace Arch News during a recent interview. “If they keep doing this, I might shut down the depot.”

READ MORE: Signs of collateral damage rise from White Rock civic standoff

Located at 28-15515 24 Ave., the depot – which accepts items ranging from beverage containers and Styrofoam to residential paint – closed for three weeks at the outset of the pandemic, from March 22 until after Easter Monday.

Since reopening – with reduced hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – it has been “way, way busier” than usual, Lee said – and many customers are not showing the same level of patience and understanding as he has seen afforded other businesses.

“Everywhere is (a) lineup,” Lee told PAN, of waits to enter banks, retail locations and other sites due to pandemic-related capacity limits.

“(Customers) are waiting at all other places. They come here, they’re complaining. If we say this (item) is not acceptable, they’re angry. They say yes and then they dump it outside.”

Lee said he has tried to be accommodating, to ease the inconvenience of the reduced hours and waits on his customers. But the efforts landed him with two warnings from the city in May, he said.

There have been no such warnings since, Lee said. But even with the addition of cameras and signage, the passage of time has not improved customers’ behaviour, he said.

“It’s worse,” Lee told PAN Wednesday (July 8).

He described an incident that occurred on Saturday (July 4), in which a customer pushed one of his employees and made like he was going to spit on him, all because he was told he’d have to wait his turn for a cart.

And on Monday (July 6), another customer who was told he had to wait accused the employee of racial bias, Lee said.

“This is really out of control.”

Lee said part of the challenge is that customers who call the city or the Recycling Hotline (604-732-9253) are given misinformation about what is accepted. Then, Lee is advised of complaints filed about his service from customers who arrive with non-compliant items and are refused.

Monday (July 13), Recycling Council of B.C.’s director of policy and communications noted that information issued through the hotline is “provided to us by local governments, BC industry stewarship programs, and businesses such as the depot in question.”

“Hotline staff perform outreach to the more than 5,000 organizations listed in our database for updates, or make targeted inquiries when calls from the public indicate an issue with our current information for a specific organization,” Harvinder Aujala said by email.

“However, we also rely on the organizations themselves to alert us to any changes we have listed for the services they provide.”

Lee said while he understands customers’ frustrations, he doesn’t understand why they’re being taken out on his business to such a degree. The depot, he said, is caught “right in the middle,” referring to city rules, stewardship-program guidelines, misinformation from the hotline and pandemic restrictions.

“We’re in the frontline, too,” Lee said.



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusRecycling

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock City Hall (Peace Arch News photo)
City of White Rock’s new anti-racism policy aims to create ‘inclusive’ environment

‘There is still more for us to do,’ says Mayor Darryl Walker

South Surrey’s Kevin McAlpin is hoping to reunite this 50-year-old wedding ring with its rightful owner. (Contributed photo)
Owner of 50-year-old wedding band found near Peace Arch Park sought

Recovered ring ‘is important to somebody,’ says finder

Surrey City Hall. (File photo)
Surrey council earmarks $1.8M in grants for community groups

Councillor Laurie Guerra says it’s ‘essential’ given damage done by pandemic

Screen shot from the SOS Children’s Village BC webpage for their “Big Hearts Open Doors” fundraising appeal. SOS is also currently running a Christmas gift-card drive to help at-risk youth this Christmas. (Image via sosbc.org)
SOS Children’s Village BC launches annual Christmas gift-card drive

SOS collecting gift cards and donations for Surrey’s at-risk youth

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Cops converge in a Marshall Road parking lot on Thursday afternoon following a reported police incident. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Federal offender escapes, gets shot at and is taken back into custody in Abbotsford

Several branches of law enforcement find escapee a short distance from where he fled

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay)
Canadians’ mental health has deteriorated with the second wave, study finds

Increased substance use one of the ways people are coping

A coal-fired power plant seen through dense smog from the window of an electric bullet train south of Beijing, December 2016. China has continued to increase thermal coal production and power generation, adding to greenhouse gas emissions that are already the world’s largest. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
LNG featured at B.C. energy industry, climate change conference

Hydrogen, nuclear, carbon capture needed for Canada’s net-zero goal

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Toronto and Peel region continue to be in lockdown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19 vaccine approval could be days away as pressures mount on health-care system

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals

Most Read