British Columbia

Metro Vancouver reports big drop in garbage during pandemic

Metro Vancouver says it has seen about 10 per cent less waste so far this April, compared to the same time last year, as garbage from commercial sources decreases by as much as 25 per cent.

The regional district says transfer stations have seen 10% less waste this April compared to last year

A man collects garbage in Vancouver, March 24, 2020. Metro Vancouver says commercial waste in the region has declined by as much as 25 per cent since COVID-19 struck, contributing to an overall decrease of 10 per cent. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Metro Vancouver says it has seen about 10 per cent less waste so far this April, compared to the same time last year.

The regional district says it noticed a shift from commercial to residential waste beginning March 20, after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had taken effect in B.C.

There's been more traffic at transfer sites, and residential garbage is up, but commercial waste is down as much as 25 per cent, according to Paul Henderson, general manager of solid waste services with Metro Vancouver, bringing the total down significantly.

"Our goal as a region is to reduce the amount of waste that's disposed of, and also increase the amount of material that's recycled, so those are absolutely our goals," said Henderson.

"Definitely, all of us are thinking about how we can translate what's happening now in all of the areas we're looking to improve the environment, reduce the impact on the environment — how can we see what's happening now and extend that past the pandemic," he said.

Henderson said recycling isn't monitored on a month-by-month basis like garbage — it's measured annually — but anecdotally, he said residential blue bins appear to have a little more recycling in them than before COVID-19 struck.

Clay Danyluk, with GFL Environmental Waste management company is pictured on his route in Vancouver, British Columbia on Friday, April 3, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Early on in the pandemic, some recycling facilities temporarily shut down, and there have been changes made at transfer sites, like increased physical distancing, additional cleaning, and card payment only. 

But Henderson said waste collection is already something that assumes potential health risks, and protective measures to avoid infection are part of the routine, even without a threat like the coronavirus. 

Metro Vancouver's transfer stations get about 700,000 visits each year, according to Henderson, and trips are up this month. He said to avoid crowds or long lines, people can check the web cams on Metro Vancouver's website to see how busy they are at any time.

Henderson said a challenge facing Metro Vancouver once things return to normal — aside from avoiding a return to normal waste levels when businesses reopen — will be to remind people to reduce their use of single use items like plastic shopping bags and the disposable coffee cups that have been required during the pandemic. 

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