Blue boxes pose problem for Penticton company

Blue boxes used for recycling blamed for a high number of injuries for workers with BFI, the company contracted by the city

Pentictonites can keep using their blue boxes to set out their recycling, at least for now.

According to BFI, the company contracted to handle waste and recycling pickup in the city, the blue boxes are causing a high number of injuries to their workers from the extended motion of lifting, emptying and pulling back.

BFI tried to make a bargain with the City of Penticton, offering an extra yard waste pickup day — worth about $6,050 — in exchange for the city eliminating the blue boxes in favour of the blue bags or a cart residents can rent from the company. Council, however, chose to send it back to staff to study alternatives.

Blue boxes have been on their way out since 2011, but the city chose to allow their continued use to ease the transition to the blue bags. However, it seems residents are attached to the boxes, with an estimated 65 per cent still using them.

Coun. Helena Konanz said it’s no surprise, given the cost of blue bags.

“Those blue bags are not cheap, it’s not like buying a regular trash bag,” said Konanz, who was also concerned about losing the long-lasting blue boxes.

“The bags themselves are not recyclable, so again we are adding to the landfill,” she continued. “I don’t want people to get hurt in their jobs, but it seems we are going the wrong way.”

According to Mitch Moroziuk, director of operations, research indicates that an average family spends about $75 a year on bags. BFI does offer its customers the option of getting a recycling cart, a yard waste cart and a garbage cart at a cost of $108 per year for a small to medium-size family.

But despite the attraction of BFI picking up the tab for one more yard waste collection day in December, the majority of councillors shared similar concerns and also questioned the city’s obligations to BFI in the matter.

“I understand the need for safety in the workplace. However, I don’t understand why that is the obligation of the city to provide a safe workplace for a private corporation’s workers. We don’t do that for anyone else,” said acting mayor Garry Litke.

He suggested that BFI could offer a bags for boxes exchange to speed up the process.

“It seems to me that if there is a safety issue for BFI employees … BFI should be paying for that to make sure their workers are safe. I don’t understand why our taxpayer is being expected to pick up the tab,” said Litke.