Tackling Langley’s litter is a big challenge

Council responds to resident’s complaint with strategy review

 

A Langley resident’s frustration with illegal dumping has led to a wide-ranging review of Township littering policies.

The $50,000 review was approved by council on Oct. 21 based on a report by Township infrastructure assets and solid waste manager Harb Chohan, who said a comprehensive strategy is needed to combat the growing problem of illicit dumping and littering in Langley.

The report was ordered after Lynette Walker appeared before a February meeting to ask council to create a consistent strategy for removing garbage from Township roadsides and ditches.

Walker said the southeast section of the Township, where she lives, has become a dumping ground.

“It is anything but beautiful,” Walker said.

The Chohan report shows reported incidents of litter and illegal dumping in Langley Township have risen 14 per cent since last year, with over 1,000 expected this year.

Litter is defined in the report as small unwanted items “that are not disposed of in an appropriate manner” while illegal dumping consists of large items like mattresses, building materials and garbage bags.

In 2012, cleaning up the various messes cost the Township $400,000.

The report predicts cleanup costs will rise because more people are expected to use ditches and vacant rural lots to avoid paying higher landfill fees and get around tighter restrictions on the types of trash a dump will take.

The current approach, one that focuses on fines to deter dumping, was criticized in the report as “reactive, dealing with the litter once it is already there.”

The report called for a prevention strategy that includes public education, especially for young people.

“Fostering a sense of community pride is essential to litter prevention,” Chohan wrote.

“If citizens feel a sense of obligation to keep their community clean, they are more likely to respond positively to anti-littering messages and volunteer clean-up opportunities.”

The report noted that once garbage is on the ground, studies show it tends to attract more litter.

As proposed, the “Litter and Illegal Dumping Management Strategy” would have “three pillars”:

1. Education of the public to discourage dumping.

2. Infrastructure that includes bins, signage and maintenance to encourage proper disposal.

3. Enforcement that would include “active monitoring and patrolling by staff.”

It’s expected the strategy will take about 12 months to develop.

The vote approving the initiative was unanimous (councillor Bev Dornan was absent).

“I think this is exactly what’s needed,” councillor Charlie Fox said.

Councillor Bob Long said he would like to see quicker litter pickups like he’s observed south of the border.

“In the States, everything is so clean,” Long said.

“And we just don’t seem to have that.”

Councillor David Davis said it was a shame a strategy is needed.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to get after people for dumping things,” Davis said.

Walker was pleased by what she termed the “genuine response” by the Township to her presentation.

“I’m satisfied that it was taken seriously” Walker told the Times.

“They’re going to try to do something about it.”

Walker said she will wait and see how it all plays out before she does any celebrating.