For anyone eyeing a deserted Surrey lot in which to dump their garbage, beware. The City of Surrey is warning you are not in the shadows.
Since June, mobile surveillance cameras have been covertly watching over a number of vacant lots around the city that are frequently targeted by illegal dumping.
The use of cameras is not a new tactic in the city’s fight against the perpetrators of this dirty crime; live monitoring, however, is.
“Where the idea now is, that the monitoring centre can then call out the RCMP and try and catch the people while they are doing it,” said Vincent Lalonde, Surrey’s general manager of engineering.
Surrey recently introduced stiffer penalties for illegal dumping, raising the maximum fine to $10,000 from $2,000. Convicted offenders are also liable for the cost of clean-up.
“That is the whole idea [behind the cameras]; taking people to court,” said Lalonde.
Anti-litter public service announcements have been popping up on Surrey bus shelters and in local newspapers as part of the city’s $40,000 advertising campaign that started in March.
Enforcing mandatory recycling at demolition and construction sites in Surrey is the last piece in the city’s three-pronged strategy to crack down on illegal dumping.
According to Lalonde, some construction crews have been inadvertently encouraging people to add their garbage to the piles of wood and debris that already exists on these sites.
“Our rationale being that if all the construction sites are tidier – and by tidier we are going to challenge them to recycle more – then people will not see new construction zones as dumping areas,” said Lalonde.
Currently, city staff are consulting with the construction industry to work out the logistics; however, subject to council approval, mandatory recycling at these sites could be a reality as early as the fall.
The City of North Vancouver has had a demolition waste recycling bylaw in place since 2007. That city requires a detailed outline of where exactly the materials will be recycled before a demolition permit is issued.
John de Ruiter, assistant manager of inspections for the City of North Vancouver, said approximately 25 homes a year are demolished in the city with a diversion rate of more than 70 per cent. He estimates there are at least 20 tonnes of demolition waste in each home.
The demolition recycling bylaw has not generated any complaints in North Vancouver, so far.
“In fact contractors were pleased to learn through our policy that disposing of mixed recyclable loads via recycling depots was no more expensive than disposing of these materials in the landfills,” said de Ruiter.
In some cases, recycling can also be the cheaper option.
Mike Holloway, owner of Assertive Excavating And Demolition Ltd. in Surrey, carts his recyclables to a local depot that hand sorts and shreds everything.
“(Recycling) is kind of the way we have gone and it’s worked out really well for us,” said Holloway. (The recycling depot) gives us pretty competitive dump fees. The landfill is pretty expensive, whereas they are a little less.”
In the end, the City of Surrey is hoping its illegal dumping strategy will cut the cost of clean-up.
The city spent more than $800,000 last year hauling away trash that had been pitched in ditches, fields, empty lots and road sides, with a 2010 cost increase the largest jump in 10 years.
Figures provided by the city at the request of The Leader show over the last decade, Surrey taxpayers were on the hook for more than $6 million thanks to people dumping large amounts of refuse in neighbourhoods rather than taking it to a waste transfer station or landfill.
Last year saw a dramatic increase of 22 per cent, as the cost of cleaning up illegal dumping in Surrey shot up $147,000 – from 683,000 to 830,000 for the year.
“I do think [this strategy] will have an impact and hopefully the numbers will show it,” said Lalonde.
– with files from Kevin Diakiw