Tim Horton would no doubt be very disappointed with those responsible for chucking this cardboard box with his name on it at the side of a Surrey road. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).

Tim Horton would no doubt be very disappointed with those responsible for chucking this cardboard box with his name on it at the side of a Surrey road. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).

TRASHED: Tackling Surrey’s problem with illegal dumping

SECOND IN A SERIES: Efforts to try to keep the City of Parks clean

SURREY — Mayor Linda Hepner is among the many Surreyites fed-up with lazy illegal dumpers messing up our streets, ravines and fields. It’s time they grow up, do the right thing and pick up after themselves, she says.

“For the most part our citizens do it, but then we have the lazy ones who don’t,” Hepner told the Now-Leader.

“The other ones are just costing the rest of us all money because we have to do the extra pick-ups when we’ve identified it’s on the roadside or the ditch. I say the same thing as anybody else, that you have a civic responsibility and grow up, do the right thing, because the rest of us are doing the right thing.”

For the proverbial rest of us, and those reforming litterbugs feeling shame and seeking to convert from their evil ways, read on.

It’s important, as the City of Surrey reports illegal dumping has been increasing at “alarming rates” not only in this city, but many cities across Canada over the past decade. In response, according to surrey.ca, “The City of Surrey has established a goal of reducing city-wide illegal dumping and its associated cost impacts by 50 per cent by 2020.”

On about the first week of any given April, you’ll see the scavenger wagons driving slowly through North Delta’s neighbourhoods, their drivers looking for proverbial gems among the household junk Delta residents get to leave at their curbside in front of their homes.

It’s a great way to divest yourself of unwanted stuff, and as such is incredibly popular. The Delta Spring Clean-Up has become something of a dependable mainstay for local residents who have excess or bulky stuff they need to chuck – things like old appliances, lawn furniture, luggage, tables, chairs, desks and book shelves, you name it.

Across Scott Road, on Surrey’s side, the city used to have a similar annual program called Reuse Weekend, also in the springtime. Surrey’s curbside program started in 1994 and ran for 10 years, until it got yanked.

“We used to have that. It was absolutely enormous,” Hepner recalled.

“What happened was it became so successful that it was so overwhelming and there was junk on the street, so what we did was we did a, ‘We will pick it up at any time, you just have to tell us you need it picked up.’ For instance, my own family, we had old couches and an old mattress. All I had to do is called the works yard, and they will come and pick it up at curbside at any time.”

In its heyday, Surrey’s Reuse Weekend was glorious. Bags stuffed, like the Grinch’s faux-Santa sack, sitting curbside, waiting for curious collectors to ferret through and take what they would.

Problem was, those piles at the end of people’s driveways grew to be lengthy piles of junk stretching along fences, and lonely stretches of local streets. In a word, the city’s program was being abused. It had grown unwieldy. Surrey residents complained about the eyesore all these mountains of roadside junk were causing, and the city pulled the plug on a program that certainly was otherwise a good thing.

Today, sadly, you’ll still see junk accumulating on the shoulders of Surrey’s roads, and in forests and vacant lots. But, as Surreyites wistfully gaze into North Delta each April, all is not lost.

There are many ways in Surrey to get junk where it should be – that is, not in the streets.

It only takes effort.

Shortly after Surrey pulled its curbside program, it asked the Recycling Council of B.C. for help and in 2006 set up a website – surreyreuses.com – which is still operating successfully today.

In its first year, Surrey’s site far surpassed a similar program in Vancouver, drawing 3,600 members and recording 6,000 exchanges of items that might have been junked, whereas Vancouver’s, in its first two and a half years, had only 1,200 members and recorded only 851 exchanges.

Today, surreyreuses.com has listed 14,517 members and 22,262 exchanges. It also features a Recyclopedia, which provides tips on how to “reduce, reuse and recycle” a wide variety of household items. It covers everything from A to Z – well, to Y, anyway – from aerosol containers to yard trimmings.

Another program doing well in Surrey, says the city’s bylaws enforcement manager, Jas Rehal, is Adopt-A-Street.

“Take some pride, take some ownership of your street. Wherever we have Adopt-A-Street, it’s going very well,” Rehal says.

“And that’s good. It’s basically you’re picking up litter, stuff like that, in your own neighbourhood, it’s there, you’ve got eyes on your street, you’ve got champions on your street, it works really well. It’s a good initiative, right.”

Brittany McKinnon, Surrey’s Adopt-A-Street co-ordinator, says volunteers are asked keep a one-kilometre stretch of a Surrey street of their choice clean. The program started in 1997. The city provides the volunteers with gloves, vests, litter-pickers and garbage bags, “and they’re on their way,” McKinnon says.

“People seem to enjoy it, especially kids and families. They seem to be the most into it. We only ask for a two-year commitment from them, from the groups. After that we’re not sure if they’re still going with the program or not.”

Hundreds of people have signed up.

“Our records show that we currently have 371 groups participating in the Adopt-A-Street Program,” McKinnon notes.

Surrey Search and Rescue is one of those groups. Forty-six of its members adopted 142nd Street in Newton, from 60th Avenue south to the old city hall, a little over a year ago.

“It needed to be done, and that’s why we did it,” James Longley, of Surrey Search and Rescue, told the Now-Leader.

Longley said construction projects along the street had generated some work for them.

“The construction workers were not the tidiest people in the world but the neighbourhood itself is relatively good.”

That strip of 142nd Street is the secondary route for Surrey Mounties, day and night, heading to and from the detachment.

“Every single car in and out of this detachment, all day and all night long.”

So are they finding lots of Tim Horton’s cups? (Heh heh).

“Ha ha ha, noooo, sir, I’m not going there,” Longely chuckles.

Seriously, he says, “We stepped up because we thought it was important. At the time it just seemed to be something that needed to be done.

“The only time we ever had any sort of Tim Hortons cups and lunch wrappers was, there was a construction of a new condominium on 142, and while that construction was going on you could tell the construction workers were not exactly the neatest and the tidiest, their coffee cups in the morning, and lunch wrappers. Their lunch time and breakfast packaging and what-not.”

The Search and Rescue crews collect about four to six bags of garbage each outing.

You’ll see signs like this all over Surrey, honoring volunteers who have stepped up to keep their local street clean under the Adopt-A-Street program. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

“It’s challenging, it’s definitely challenging. Is it for everybody? No. Recommended? The city is good about picking it up. They do make efforts to try and track down and deal with the offenders, and they’re good about picking up and stuff afterwards.

“It’s a good program, I think it’s worthwhile, is it for everybody, probably not. But it’s worthwhile. It works.”

While Adopt-A-Street typically tackles the little stuff, other Surrey programs like Pop Up Junk Drop, the Large Item Pick Up Program and its related Don’t Dump, Just Dial pilot program, aim to keep larger items from piling up where they shouldn’t be.

The Pop Up Junk Drop is for Surrey residents only. It’s a free service, at the Surrey Operations Centre parking lot, with 2018 dates yet to be announced. ID is required, and it’s a great way to get rid of big stuff, if you can get it to the site.

The Large Item Pick Up Program, which the mayor was referring to earlier in this story, offers a service in which residents can call 604-590-7289 (Option 3) to have up to four large items picked up per calendar year.

Meantime, Hepner leaves us with some parting thoughts.

“I think there’s a story to be told here, and I’ll tell you what I think it is,” she says. “For the last almost 30 years we have had one drop-off place in the City of Surrey, in the north. It’s the transfer station, and the drop off.”

The Surrey Transfer Station is located at 9770 192nd Street in Port Kells.

“We were told by Metro Vancouver that when we closed the old (Port Mann) landfill, which was in the City of Surrey, that we would at that time get another drop-off centre, in the south. At that time, they determined the distance between the north drop-off and having one in the south was the farthest distance of anywhere in the region, that people in South Surrey had father to go than anyone in this region to drop things off.

“And so we were told that we would get another drop-off centre, and it would be in the south. This year, that has been budgeted and turned into what they’re going to call an ‘eco-centre,’ because the City of Surrey is putting more money into it so they could drop off other pieces, like construction waste and all the rest of it.”

That’s great news, for responsible people who don’t litter. But for those who simply don’t care, there remains much work ahead.


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Up next: Part 3

We look at the costs and trends of illegal dumping in Surrey.