COLUMN: Waste not, dump not

City of White Rock penalties for illegal dumping are reasonable

The City of White Rock is taking some steps to partially solving the problem of dumping, which has become an epidemic in Surrey, White Rock and Delta, and indeed in almost every city.

The issue came to the spotlight in two recent court cases, when White Rock residents appeared in provincial court to dispute tickets for dumping at the city works yard.

In one case, Joy Davies was initially fined $500 for leaving a working vacuum cleaner at the works yard. She said she had thought the machine would be picked up by someone who could make use of it.

Davies’ appeal has yet to be heard in court, but in another case, a justice of the peace fined Wayne Jackson $100 for dumping mattress covers at the works yard. The fine was reduced when a justice of the peace found out more about his financial situation, and was also informed that the city is considering lowering the fine for first-time offenders.

While it sounds harsh to fine people for dumping, what these people did was dump in an obvious place — one where the city has now installed cameras to capture such actions. They may have had honourable motivations, but most people who dump have no such illusions. They simply want to get rid of things from their homes or businesses, and not pay the fee at the transfer station (which is actually quite reasonable).

Any area where there are ditches, open fields, vacant properties or even secluded parking lots will do. And the dumpers leave it to others to clean up their messes, and often pay the disposal fee.

The dumpers are nothing more than leeches, who can’t take even the most basic responsibility – to dispose of their own possessions.

White Rock is correct to impose finds, and the first-time fine of $175 it is considering is reasonable. If that gets people to pay without going to court, great – but the important thing is to make dumpers feel a financial pinch. There is no need for an initial warning – people know it is wrong, and they choose to break the bylaw.

Because White Rock is a small, compact city, the areas where dumping can take place unnoticed are few and far between. Such is not the case in Surrey and Delta, where there are many open areas and plenty of dark corners. Farms and rural areas are often the targets, and the dumping costs people in those areas plenty in time and effort.

Perhaps more surveillance cameras in areas which are popular dumping locations would help to reduce the problem.

Longer hours at the transfer station would also help – while the transfer station in Port Kells is open seven days a week, it closes by 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Given the pressure on people’s schedules, it would make sense for it to be open until at least 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, so that people could drop off unwanted items after the work day.

It would also be helpful if each city had one or more central locations where all types of recyclables, such as electronic items, could be dropped off. One of the challenges these days is finding out which place takes which type of recyclable. The transfer station accepts many of them, but not all – and many bottle depots also take some, but not all.

The new Multi Material B.C. approach to recycling may make this situation even  worse, as there are some significant concerns with just how well it will work. Many businesses are complaining that higher fees they will be charged will hurt both consumers and their bottom lines.

In a consumer-oriented society like ours, there will always be waste. There needs to be a well-co-ordinated approach to dealing with it, and illegal dumping needs to be discouraged strongly. One of the best ways to do that is to make it easy to get rid of unwanted items.

There is definitely some fine-tuning that could make this easier, and reduce illegal dumping.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.