Cover it up

Garbage bylaw takes effect Monday; group would like to see it in effect all year

Bonnie Belec
Published on March 29, 2014
The City of St. John’s reminds residents that garbage has to be covered as of Monday. — Telegram file photo

Seagulls and crows, consider being forewarned — the all-you-can-eat garbage buffet is about to close.

As of Monday, St. John’s residents are required to once again cover or contain their garbage with blankets, nets or bins with a lid.

 And whether you agree with it or not, it is a law that came into effect Aug. 1, 2006, and not abiding by it could result in a fine of up to a maximum of $5,000. There is no minimum set out in the city’s bylaws and regulations.

Council has been known to be lenient for the first few weeks, but after that residents will be ticketed.

A news release issued Friday to remind residents of the rule says the “measures are in place to reduce the amount of litter on streets, parks and open spaces.”

Karen Hickman, St. John’s Clean and Beautiful’s executive director, said the move has helped to control litter, but she would like to see it in effect year-round.

“It has made a difference from April to November, but the problem is the rest of the time litter is being created from December to March,” she told The Telegram Friday.

“In my opinion it would be better to have it covered at all times and we would love to see council revisit it,” Hickman said.

She said when they had lobbied for it before they were told by council there were challenges imposing it in winter conditions. She said she was also told the cold weather prevents the garbage from smelling bad, causing the seagulls to be less attracted to it, therefore reducing the need for coverage.

But she downplayed the theory, saying she has often seen seagulls picking at garbage in the winter.

Aside from the pests, Hickman said another good reason to cover garbage and recyclables is the province’s wind.

A prime example was on recycling day in her area this week, when she saw blue bags and recyclable material flying around the roads, she said.

The bags had been blown into traffic, struck by cars and torn open.

“If they were covered it would have helped keep the mess off the road. We live in a windy city, so it makes perfect sense. I don’t know why it isn’t done year-round,” said Hickman.

If it does come before council again, Coun. Jonathan Galgay, chairman of the public works committee, said he wouldn’t support it.

“It does help somewhat, but I wouldn’t support having it all winter long because I still have questions about the effectiveness of it in the summer time,” he said.

First elected to council in October, Galgay said he asked around what the rationale was behind not imposing the ban 12 months of the year.

He said it basically comes down to nuisance issues by having to deal with the difficulties of Newfoundland winters such as mounds of snow, snowplows and the potential for blankets and nets to get caught up in the equipment.

“Some people love it and some people hate it,” said Galgay.

“Personally speaking, I understand nets do assist in keeping seagulls away, but it’s not 100 per cent. I double bag mine because I use industrial bags in my garage. It’s just as good as having a net over it. I’ve come home before and crows have had the net off my garbage,” he said.

In addition to the dirty, wet blankets people opt to use, Galgay said he’s received several phone calls from people telling him they have had their nets stolen more than once,  and out of frustration, they refuse to do it anymore.

 “Once I see statistics, that’s when I’ll make a judgment call, but at this point in time it does curb it a little bit, but not 100 per cent,” he said.

Council has tossed around the idea of implementing a garbage cart pilot project, but it hasn’t been done yet.