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Proposed changes could force some Calgarians to store bins in garages, sheds

Calgarians living in certain parts of the city could soon be forced to store their waste bins in their garage or shed on non-collection days.

The changes to Calgary’s waste bylaw are being proposed in an effort to reduce wildlife conflict, and would also limit the amount of time residential bins and carts could be left outside even on collection days.

It all stems from an incident last year in which a black bear sow and three cubs were euthanized by Alberta Fish and Wildlife after repeatedly scavenging in waste carts in the community of Discovery Ridge.

Since then, the city has started a bear awareness campaign in the community, advising residents to store their waste in a secure enclosure and limit overnight cart set-out. Despite this, city administration thinks changes to Calgary’s waste bylaw are also needed to help with enforcement if issues continue.

A report from city administration, reviewed by members of the Community Development Committee on Thursday, says they researched practices used in other municipalities that have a “history of living with wildlife” to see how they handle their waste.

The report says in those communities, overnight waste cart set-out has been identified as a “significant attractant for bears and other wildlife.”

The report recommends that Calgarians in areas “identified as having problems with bears or other wildlife” be required to store their bins in a garage, shed or “other secure enclosure” on non-collection days.

On collection days, residents in the impacted areas wouldn’t be allowed to put out their bins before 5 a.m. and would have to have them put away by 7 p.m.

The changes to the bylaw would see penalties for those who violate the rules.

In the report, city administration noted some Calgarians may be “dissatisfied” with the new requirements, resulting in increased complaints to 311 and ward offices.

It also noted Calgarians may be concerned about the proposed changes if they do not have access to a garage or other secure enclosure to store waste, or if their work or life schedules conflict with the residential cart set-out time requirements.

On Thursday, members of the Community Development Committee voted unanimously in favour of the proposed amendments.

The proposed changes will now head to city council at a later date for further debate.

Committee chair and Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner says the measures would likely not be year-round, just in the summer, and could be monitored.

“We’re going to be working with experts in Fish and Wildlife, working with our waste and recycling team on our own ecologist here at the city to determine what the next best steps are,” she said.

As for why bear-resistant bins aren’t up for debate, Penner notes that the timeframe is too short. 

“Because it is often of short duration that we’re going to be needing this, the cost to implement it and the fact that that technology can fail, this is actually the safest, simplest way to take proactive measures to prevent any negative interactions.”

It’s not yet known how city bylaw could enforce the proposed changes, but Penner says councillors have some ideas.

“We have a system like Park Plus where we can use cameras and technology to monitor, so I would suspect that we would fall back on many of those same technologies,” she said.

“I think most neighbours will also hold each other accountable, and last year’s incident in Discovery Ridge really created that conversation between neighbours.”

Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans represents the Discovery Ridge area.

He proposed a ‘bin buddy’ program where neighbours that need a little extra help could be assisted with bringing their bins out.  

He says the vast majority of his constituents tell him they’re concerned about how to properly look after wildlife and want to find the right solutions. 

“We’ve killed four bears that have got in our way, so there’s a moral side to this story of putting in bylaws,” said Pootmans.

“But there’s also another story about our safety. Bears that have become habituated to our behavior are not safe to be around for us, so there’s two very good reasons right there why we should be doing this.”

The proposed changes will now head to city council in September for further debate.

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