News Local

Vancouver to double clean-up staff

By Eric MacKenzie

Greater enforcement of overflowing commercial containers is one aspect of Vancouver’s expanded approach to public realm cleanliness, council learned Wednesday. 
File photo

Greater enforcement of overflowing commercial containers is one aspect of Vancouver’s expanded approach to public realm cleanliness, council learned Wednesday. File photo

Fewer trash containers will be overflowing and more cigarette butts will find their way into an ashtray if the City of Vancouver’s expanded efforts to keep streets clean go as planned.

The city will be nearly doubling the amount of staff time dedicated to collecting abandoned waste, sweeping streets and emptying litter cans as part of Vancouver’s Cleanest City program, council learned Wednesday.

It will also be rolling out higher-capacity trash cans and stepping up enforcement of illegal dumping, said waste management and resource recovery director Albert Shamess.

The new initiatives come after council had previously approved an additional $2.8 million toward public realm cleanliness, and after a 30% increase in calls to 311 last year — three-quarters of which were related to abandoned garbage. The city collected around 70,000 illegally dumped items last year.

“We were having a difficult time keeping up with demands,” said Shamess. “Particularly around mattress calls, (it was) up to 10 days before we could actually get out there and pick it up simply because of the amount of material we were dealing with.”

Crews will now collect abandoned waste seven nights per week — up from four — in downtown alleys and do the same five nights per week citywide, up from three. The city will expand from three to five litter-collection crews and will focus on hotspots where cans tend to reach capacity before emptied, said Shamess.

Meanwhile, public cigarette butt receptacles have until now been attached to poles in Vancouver, but the city will try affixing them to garbage cans along the Broadway corridor.

“Putting them more associated with litter cans will drive (the point) that cigs butts are actually litter,” said Shamess. “They should not be thrown in the street – put them in the ashtray, treat them as litter.”

As for enforcement, the city will look into cameras that can monitor problem areas and focus primarily on overflowing commercial containers. Shamess said the city has already secured three convictions for such offences this year near East Hastings Street and Raymur Avenue, collecting $7,500 in fines, while two other cases are ongoing.