At its regular meeting on July 16, the board of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD) voted to cancel this year’s solid waste free disposal days, which had already been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FDDs are usually held at all 26 of the TNRD’s solid waste facilities in late April and early May.
However, Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) round-up events — which are separate from the free disposal days — will go ahead this fall. The HHW events are the only time that residents can safely dispose of materials that are not accepted at solid waste facilities, and also usually happen in the spring.
Examples of household hazardous waste products include unlabeled pesticides, cleaning solutions, and unknown material that is not in the original container. As there are no appropriate alternatives for disposing of these materials, HHW round-up events are scheduled to proceed — most likely in October — at four locations within the TNRD: Cache Creek, Kamloops, Merritt, and Clearwater. Additional COVID-19 safety measures will be put in place for the events, with dates and locations to be announced.
A report to the board noted that the free disposal days were postponed this spring due to COVID-19, in order to minimize contact between the public and frontline workers and to encourage the public to only visit the sites if absolutely necessary. However, the fees for bagged household garbage were waived during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic (from March 23 to May 28), in order to help protect workers and the public by limiting interactions related to fee collection, resulting in approximately $50,000 in lost revenue. The revenue loss to the TNRD for the FDDs is typically between $45,000 and $60,000 each year.
The report stated that if the FDDs were to occur in 2020, they would have to be scheduled for the fall (likely September and October), with public announcements going out well in advance. However, it noted that future developments pertaining to COVID-19 are uncertain, and the risk associated with the concentration of people during these events remains. There is also the possibility that even if FDDs were re-scheduled, it might not be prudent to go forward with them.
The board also passed a motion directing the TNRD Solid Waste Committee to look at options for free disposal days in the future, and staff will prepare a report for the committee exploring various options for FDDs in 2021 and beyond. Noting concerns about one fixed date at each site necessitating extra staff and resulting in large crowds, one suggestion at the July 16 meeting was that each household within the TNRD receiving a coupon entitling them to a free waste disposal day on the date of their choice, which would alleviate crowds.
The Solid Waste Committee’s recommendations will be brought to a future meeting for discussion and a decision.