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Roadside trash costs Greater Victoria taxpayers in cash, money, health

A ‘free’ couch not properly disposed of can result in microplastics in nature

Rural communities bear the brunt when it comes to spring cleaning, or more precisely, dumped construction refuse, according to Metchosin Mayor John Ranns who contends that the district spent $10,000 on illegally discarded drywall alone last year.

Part of the cost is testing, bagging and transportation protocols required for dealing with such waste.

That’s on top of the standard couches and mattresses that often appear near the end of the month on the many long dead-end roads.

“We fill a 20-yard bin every month, not including the drywall,” Ranns said.

While not remotely a rural community, one of Oak Bay’s hot spots is Cattle Point – a designated dark skies park with a large gravel parking area. It was hit repeatedly among the 40 reports of primarily construction debris and garden waste dumped around the community. That’s an average year for Oak Bay and adds up to $5,000 or $6,000 including labour – a conservative estimate, according to parks manager Chris Hyde-Lay.

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The Capital Regional District (CRD) doesn’t track total region-wide costs like this, and not all municipalities record local costs, either. However, Black Press Media took a look at which communities do and how the past year looked.

Central Saanich recorded 43 incidents of illegal dumping in 2021 and is on par this year so far with 20 to date. The trash ranges from large garbage bags to a pile of furniture. Staff there estimate the cost at roughly $5,000 to $10,000 a year.

North Saanich staff estimate they take about a dump truck load of garbage – primarily from cleaning up abandoned homeless camps and pickup of larger items such as couches and mattresses – to Hartland Landfill each month at a cost of about $170.

The largest municipality in the region, Saanich features a mix of urban and rural areas and has tracked its reported incidents of roadside dumping for years. For 2021, 727 incidents cost more than $125,000, compared to 531 reports in 2017 at a cost of more than $80,000.

“We are seeing a trend in more unwanted items in poor condition being placed on the roadside with ‘free’ signs, which is contrary to our bylaws. Similarly, we are seeing more household garbage bags and large items abandoned adjacent to bus shelter litter bins. These occurrences often go unreported as our staff tend to pick them up when they see them,” said spokesperson Megan Catalano.

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Highlands and Esquimalt are among communities in the Capital Regional District (CRD) that don’t track specific fees for illegal dumping – but note that it does occur. In Esquimalt, it’s picked up with regular waste, but there are environmental concerns, said spokesperson Tara Zajak.

“We are fortunate to have a comprehensive recycling program in the CRD and we strongly encourage people to make use of it. That said, anyone caught illegally dumping is subject to a bylaw ticket,” she said.

Abandoned trash can have a major impact on the environment, specifically for plants, wildlife and watersheds, said CRD spokesperson Russ Smith, senior manager of environmental resource protection. Residents who see abandoned waste should report it to their municipality.

“Materials found in everything from construction waste and electronics to furniture and decor items contain chemicals and microplastics that can leach into forested areas and waterways as they rot or break down,” Smith said.

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Unwanted items that are still in good condition can be sold online, given away, donated to charity or recycled. Anything that can’t be re-used or recycled should be disposed of properly at one of the recycling options in the region.

Saanich echoes that sentiment, Catalano said, noting Hartland and Ellice Recycle accept larger items.

“Illegal dumping on the roadside or in parks carries many negative impacts including ground contamination, health risks by exposure to harmful chemical and disease through rodents, diminished aesthetic value of our community, and taxpayers covering the removal and disposal costs.”

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

I'm dedicated to serving the community of Oak Bay as a senior journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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