East Vancouver neighbourhood ‘drowning’ in takeout garbage
Restaurant food packaging litter increases during COVID-19 pandemic
By Emily Lyth
Every day, David Faber cleans up the litter that has accumulated on his front lawn on Victoria Drive with a bucket and trash picker in hand.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, trash from local businesses has been increasingly ending up on the lawns, streets and alleyways of the Victoria-Fraserview neighbourhood.
Faber has lived in the neighbourhood since 2011 and said that the trash problem is getting worse.
259 million takeout containers were disposed of in 2020
“We’ve seen a real increase, especially over the last year, in the amount of street garbage in our neighbourhood,” Faber said.
A recent waste composition study surveying disposal facilities in the Metro Vancouver Regional District revealed that an estimated 259 million takeout containers were disposed of in 2020, compared to 179 million in 2018. Containers left on the streets remained unaccounted for in those estimates.
According to Faber, the proximity of the McDonald’s, Starbucks and Tim Hortons at the intersection of East 41st Avenue and Victoria Drive has increased the amount of takeout waste found in the neighbourhood.
“I think they’re ashamed,” said Faber, who sent letters to all three businesses demanding accountability. He has yet to receive a response.
A manager at the Tim Hortons, which opened in 2020, said that while building staff clean the restaurant’s exterior on a regular basis, Tim Hortons employees only do so if business is slow.
Managers at the neighbouring McDonald’s and Starbucks said that their employees are required to clean up litter on their company’s property, but any garbage found on the surrounding streets is not their responsibility.
Tim Blunt, a lifelong South Vancouver resident, said that people are also discarding large pieces of furniture and debris in the alleyways over the past few years.
“It’s just a daily mess of people dumping garbage bags, and construction stuff, and more mattresses,” said Blunt. “It’s disheartening for me, I guess, because it shows a lack of pride in the community.”
‘Disposal does come at a cost to the city’
Vancouver city councillor Pete Fry said that the disposal fees for mattresses lead to their illegal dumping.
“It does take a delicate balance, because obviously disposal does come at a cost to the city,” said Fry. “The real barrier is a lack of convenient places to dispose of things.”
Monique Koningstein, executive director of the Victoria Drive Business Improvement Association, said that garbage cans are “crucial” to have near takeout businesses.
Prior to the pandemic, the Victoria Drive BIA employed Coast Mental Health Foundation workers to clean the area five days a week.
The foundation has had to cease all clean-up operations during the pandemic due to safety concerns.
Koningstein said the Victoria Drive BIA is negotiating a new contract with the foundation. In the meantime, the area’s cleanliness depends on weekly litter collection service provided by the City of Vancouver.
“That’s why we’re still seeing a lot of garbage on the street,” said Koningstein. “But as far as businesses and their responsibility, that’s something we feel they have to deal with themselves.”
Faber said placing a garbage can next to the bus stop in front of his home would encourage people not to litter.
“If people don’t deal with it now, we’re going to drown in our own garbage,” said Faber.
Video by Emily Lyth below…