Willowbrook Recycling owner ‘losing sleep’ over increase in abusive customer behaviour

Savannah Paine said COVID has caused anger and frustration during transactions at her bottle depot

Savannah Paine is the owner at Willowbrook Recycling – a family business that is celebrating 25 years in operation.

Though she is the first to admit there have been many ups and downs during two-and-a-half decades, Paine said the last few months has been the absolute worst time for her industry.

“It’s quite a stressful time. We are constantly having conversations on how rude people are. It’s unbelievable how angry they get about not being able to drop off Styrofoam,” Paine said. “I’m losing sleep over it.”

She said angry emails, phone calls, and an increasingly defiant clientele, upset about recycling program rules and social distancing measures, takes up a large portion of her day.

“I’ve personally had to clean up human feces in our parking lot more than once recently,” Paine recalled. “One of my staff was brutally assaulted a few months ago over black trash bags.”

Lack of understanding and clear education, she said, is a significant factor.

“What exactly is Extended Producer Responsible in B.C.? Most people don’t know. They don’t understand the B.C. recycling program and the lack of proper clarity leads to things being dumped here all the time,” Paine explained, urging the public to consult willowbrookrecycling.com for a list of what is accepted.

Paine also said the uptick in rude behavior clearly began to increase at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March.

“COVID created a mood that people bring wherever they go,” Paine said. “One little thing then sets it off. I’ve had to ban people from the bottle depot because they refuse to social distance. It’s constant!”

She said her staff members maintain social distancing while there is constant cleaning protocols and no physical contact between sorters and customers.

“People won’t cooperate,” she assured.

READ MORE: Changes coming to Langley City recycling program

With numerous recycling depot managers sharing similar negatives experiences with media outlets, Paine noted that there is currently no resource to turn to for help with difficult customers.

“This is a call to action to our patrons, the stewards, and the government. B.C.’s Extended Producer Responsible system is seriously astray,” Paine said. “The time for attitude adjustments is long overdue for all levels of this industry.”

At the end of the day, Paine referred to her frustrations as a simple “plea to the public to be kind.”

”My guys work hard… my staff is amazing. It’s maybe 10 per cent making it difficult and the rest are wonderful. We have regulars that we love seeing,” she said. “But please, have patience and be kind.”

Willowbrook Recycling Centre is located at 19641 60 Ave, Langley.

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Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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