Waste woes: Concern over increase in illegal dumping along International Avenue

International Avenue BRZ director told city council that small budget decision can have a big impact on communities

The executive director of the International Avenue BRZ said illegal dumping is a problem after a prior decision at council had a big impact. LIVEWIRE CALGARY FILE PHOTO

A southeast Calgary area business leader said reduced landfill service hours have resulted in an increase in illegal dumping along Calgary’s International Avenue.

The city said, however, there’s been no increase in area complaints.

The issue came up during Monday’s public submissions for budget adjustments.

Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of the International Avenue BRZ, said any decisions that are made need to improve quality of life in Calgary. One example she used was the city’s decision to cut landfill hours in recent years.

“Every Monday, when I roll into my office, I’m greeted with several locations along the zone that have become a victim of illegal dumping in the commercial area,” Karim-McSwiney said, noting that to some it might seem like a small impact.

“So just one small cut has significant consequences elsewhere.”

Residential garbage being dumped

When LiveWire Calgary followed up with Karim-McSwiney, she expanded on the issue in her area.

“The issue is primarily residential type waste like couches, mattresses and general dump type garbage,” Karim-McSwiney said.

“The (East Calgary) landfill is the only one open on Sunday for the whole city. I think for a city of one million, there needs to be longer hours through all landfills. That is one of the reasons we did not support more service cuts. It really just gets downloaded somewhere else.”

Last year, the city decided to open the East Calgary landfill on Sundays during the peak months from April to October. The decision was one of several changes in services the past few years in the face of budget problems.

In 2015, the city reduced landfills to be open only four days a week, which led to many complaints. Last year, the city reversed that decision, extending most facilities to six days a week.

City unaware of a problem with illegal dumping along International Avenue

When reached for comment, however, the City of Calgary said they hadn’t received word of a growing issue.

A city communications adviser said there wasn’t an increase in bylaw violation reports related to landfill dumps. 

“(There has been) no increase in those calls for illegal dumping in that area,” the spokeswoman said.

She added landfill services are not currently on the table as part of waste and recycling’s budget cut scenarios.

Further, she said the East Calgary hours haven’t seen service cuts. They’re currently on holiday hours.

During holiday hours, running from November to March, most landfills are open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Further elimination of Community Recycling Depots could exacerbate the problem

There was a steady stream of users at the 126 Avenue SE community recycling depot Wednesday. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

During Tuesday’s general manager update, Coun. Jeromy Farkas asked the city’s Utilities and Environmental Protection department if this problem with illegal dumping could increase with the further reduction of Community Recycling Depots (CRD).

These green-bins, located in various Calgary retail parking lots, were also cut back when the city trimmed $60 million from last year’s budget.

Farkas referred to Karim-McSwiney’s appearance Monday to tee-up the CRD question to administration.

“Are we anticipating any unintended consequences of the reduction on the item of the community recycling depots?” Farkas asked.

Administration admitted there would be some risk.

“There is a short-term change in behaviour as people figure out where the next CRD of their convenience is, but we do watch for things like illegal dumping and increases in black cart volumes as well,” said the city’s UEP manager.

“With this move to reduce eight further ones… if Mr. (Rick) Valdarchi (director of waste and recycling services) were here, he’d say we’re getting close to that fine line.”

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