Letters to the editor 

If a tree falls in the Village...

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Dave Clark

Executive Director

Whistler Friends


Waste not just about bears

Re: Sylvia Dolson's letter to the editor (Get Bear Smart, Pique Oct. 14)

I fully appreciate Dolson's concern for our local bears and support her goals of preventing their habituation to human activity and their deaths as a result. However, I am concerned that some of the solutions proposed at various public meetings, namely neighbourhood waste collection bins, come at the price of other sustainability goals.

Waste collection in the neighbourhoods will increase our municipal costs, and at what benefit? One estimate for a subsidized trial was $80,000 for one neighbourhood and it may not solve our bear attractant issues.

If collection bins are in place once a week, will it meet the needs of all residents including weekenders? Will the people who are drawing bears to their homes with waste care enough to walk to the bins with their waste? Will bears be drawn to the bins by the smell? Will it provide all the options for recycling that residents presently have elsewhere in the community?

And what about the upcoming recycling options. There are many existing take-back programs such as those for beverage containers, paint and electronic waste (e.g. old computers) but these are part of an ongoing process to add more such programs. The B.C. Ministry of Environment has already legislated that there will be programs for a host of other products (www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/recycling/) by 2012 and they have committed to the Canada-wide Action Plan for many more programs by 2015 and 2017 (www.ccme.ca/assets/pdf/epr_cap.pdf). The first one promised by the ministry is for packaging and print material. These programs represent a shift from municipal (and taxpayer) responsibility for these wastes to producer (and consumer) responsibility.

It would be impossible for the RMOW to offer all the recycling options, not to mention the Re-Use-It Centre and the upcoming Rebuild it Centre materials, at every bin. That means that residents would be encouraged to take the easier option of disposing of those materials as waste. This would take us away from our stated Whistler 2020 goal of "embracing zero waste."

Instead of an either/or system of bears versus waste goals, I hope that Whistler will follow the example set by the North Shore Recycling Program where they worked together with their local Bear Smart program to develop waste reduction strategies that achieved both organizations' goals (for example, developing bear-friendly backyard composting practices).

The first step would be to clearly identify the problem by asking questions like is a lack of vehicle transport for waste the key factor for problem residences, what do people without cars do now for waste disposal, what do they think solutions might be and would they be willing to use the proposed solutions? Then we can start looking at solutions and working with our partners such as BC Transit, bylaw enforcement, Carney's, etc. to address them.

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