Winnipeg recycling depot neighbours want city to keep debris from drifting into their yards

The sign above a row of recycling bins at the St. James Civic Centre reads, “Good for our city. Good for our planet” — but residents who live nearby say it isn’t good for their yards.

Cardboard packaging, drink cups, aluminum cans and other materials escape the bins and surrounding area at the city-run recycling depot and blow into nearby properties.

Shirley Banks and her family live just a few houses away from the depot. They estimate they pick up two or three bags of debris a week.

“It’s enough that I phoned [the city] a couple of times and they said, ‘Oh, we’ll come and pick it up,’ but that never happened,” Banks said. “I gave up a long time ago.”

Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) fielded a few calls from residents about the drifting recyclables. He’s tabled a request with the city’s water and waste committee to get staff to look at how the depots could be reconfigured.

“Our staff, to their credit, empty the bins three times a week. So that’s indicative of how popular recycling and those recycling bins are —so it’s good that people are using them,” Gillingham said.

“[But] we need to work as a city to continue to find a way to make sure that the contents on the site stay on the site and don’t get blown to other properties.”

St. James resident Shirley Banks says better fencing might cut down on the amount of debris her family cleans up in their yard. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

Banks says when the community recycling depot at the St. James Civic Centre — one of four the city operates around Winnipeg — was first established, her husband recommended the city put up fencing to trap loose recycling. Instead, a fence was installed behind the bins only. 

“It doesn’t catch [material] when people are putting things in [the bins],” Banks said. “If it’s windy, it goes right here on our street.”

Blowing in the wind in Spence

The recycling depot in the lane behind the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre is a source of similar frustrations for residents in the Spence neighbourhood.

“Because of the placement, we find that the wind blows a lot of the debris from the recycling bins into our yard [and] into our parking spot, especially because they’re often overfilled and not managed well,” West End resident Jamie Arpin-Ricci told CBC News. 

“I think one of the solutions might be more frequent pickup. I know the city probably has better things to do than policing recycling bins, but at the same time, we end up doing the work of keeping our neighbourhood clean,” he said. 

West End resident Jamie Arpin-Ricci says the recycling that falls out of bins gets wet and turns into garbage, defeating the purpose of having the bins in the first place. (Jaison Empson/CBC )

The drifting recycling quickly turns into garbage, Arpin-Ricci says.

“Most of it gets so wet and dirty that it can’t go into recycling and ends up in the trash.”

The irony of a recycling depot becoming a source of garbage isn’t lost on Gillingham.

“Ultimately, if the city … wants neighbours to be good neighbours of one another, the City of Winnipeg has to be a good neighbour as well, and then make sure we’re not causing frustration unduly to local residents,” Gillingham said.

If the water and waste committee approves Gillingham’s request, a report on how to improve the depots could be ready by the end of summer.

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