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NNSL Photo/Graphic

John Oldfield of Kavanaugh Bros. Waste Removal, the city's garbage collector for commercial and residential areas, unveils the recent paint job on one of his trucks. Oldfield said the message is meant to remind people not to dump their garbage in unauthorized areas. "People should take pride in their city," he said. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

Garbage collector says Yellowknife reputation being soured

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Friday, June 8, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - The head of a Yellowknife garbage collecting company is showing his true colors when it comes to the unauthorized dumping of garbage.

John Oldfield of Kavanaugh Bros. Waste Disposal - Yellowknife's garbage collector for residential areas and large apartment dwellings - has painted several of his trucks with a message encouraging Yellowknife residents to put their garbage where it belongs.

"Help keep Yellowknife clean," one of the trucks says in big red letters.

"We're starting to do the bigger trucks now," said Oldfield. "Maybe it won't help. But if a person sees it and it stops them from throwing their gum wrapper on the ground, we're that much farther ahead."

Oldfield has heard reports of people dumping their excess garbage in public places, such as the sand pits near the shooting range and along the Ingraham trail. He's concerned the city as a whole is getting a bad reputation.

The repainted trucks are meant to fight that negative image, he said.

"We're trying to get the message across that not every person in Yellowknife (dumps their garbage where they're not supposed to)," he said. "The trucks kind of drive around town as a big billboard."

Oldfield said some 30 to 40 people living in residential areas have come to his company to complain about the city's garbage disposal policy ever since the policy was changed in 2006. The new policy puts a limit of three 77-litre garbage bags per house per week and requires people to pay a minimum of $5 for dumping garbage at the city landfill.

"We've had people venting to us in our office," Oldfield said. "A lot of people were all up in arms and saying, 'Well, if that's the case, I'm just going to dump my garbage anywhere.' We said to them, 'I hope you won't do that.' Obviously there's still a few out there who are doing that."

Greg Kehoe, manager public works for the city of Yellowknife, said the city has received only "a few" complaints since the inception of the new garbage policy.

"And lately we've been noticing that the amount of residential garbage has decreased by 20 per cent," said Kehoe.

A May 2007 Ipsos Reid poll conducted on 801 Yellowknife residents shows people are sharply divided over the city's garbage policy.

Forty-six per cent of respondents said they support a move to reduce the weekly bag limit even further to just two bags, while 52 per cent said they oppose the initiative.