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The mark of another frustrated building manager

November 2, 2014


This week I saw a recycling blue bin for newspapers with its lid overwritten with warnings that the bin wasn’t for garbage.

This was clearly the sign of a building manager finally losing patience. Also evidence that many apartment dwellers in the Fairview neighbourhood still don’t seem to understand or care that blue isn’t the colour of garbage.

The manager went a bit overboard, covering much of the empty space on the lid with multiple warnings — in capital letters, with some underlining and multiple exclamation marks.

:Newsprint Only”; “Look”, “LOOK!!”, Look First”, “Hey”, “News Print!!”, “No Garbage“, “Newsprint”, “LOOK NEWSPRINT ONLY!”, No Garbage“.

Hey building manager! No need to shout and repeat yourself. Your tenants heard you the first time. They probably just DON’T CARE!!

The message of recycling will always be lost on some people

The city of Vancouver began colour coding public waste receptacles nearly 20 years ago: blue for recycling, grey for garbage and green for yard waste.

The system is clear as a bell in neighbourhoods full of single family homes where waste all goes in city-supplied and colour-coded containers which, in turn are collected by city crews.

However, almost all apartment building in Fairview use commercial garbage collection services rather than the city-collected grey bins. Meaning apartment dwellers only see and use the city-supplied recycling blue bins. If buildings have green yard waste bins they don’t concern the tenants.

Commercial dumpsters do not follow the city’s colour-coding scheme. Whether for garbage or cardboard, dumpsters are emblazoned with logos and phone numbers and painted in company colours: green, red, several shades of blue, brown and white — to name the company colours that come to mind.

While the city also applies its colour coding rules to street corner trash receptacles which are deliberately garbage grey — and the city-sanctioned Return-It recycling receptacles are recycling blue — the city’s own handful of dumpsters are not garbage-grey but white — the colour of the city sanitation department.

Colour-coding garbage receptacles was originally part of a strategy to teach people to distinguish between the different kids of waste they produce and sort it accordingly.

The purist in me would prefer that the colour coding was applied consistently across all public and private waste management systems. That way everyone would continually get the message — wherever they lived and worked — that in Vancouver not all garbage is trash.

And all commercial garbage dumpsters could both be primarily grey and clearly branded by company — just like most of a cigarette package is given over to a government warning yet the package easily retains its brand identity.

But while I could argue that Vancouver doesn’t go far enough, clearly the city sees that its interest ends with the general public and that the commercial collection of garbage is largely none of its business.

And in truth, long-time Vancouverites do understand the city recycling system; some just will never care to follow it.

The only people that might be confused by the system are new residents who may have no prior experience with separating their garbage. But all they should have to do is follow the lead of their neighbours, right?

New residents might learn how to properly use the recycling blue bins by seeing what their neighbours do or they might just throw their garbage wherever they see fit; in which case, some of their neighbours might actually start following their bad example.

Unfortunately the phenomenon of “neighbour see, neighbour do” cuts both ways.

I’m just glad I don’t manage an apartment building. Click the image to enlarge it.

  1. Slowcrow permalink

    Yes, another thing to be grateful for…… But BTW, kinda on topic (;)), are you aware of ‘the Sunday Edition’s’ latest series re: housing options? I have to figure out how to download podcasts. Check out the inspiring Janet Torge and her housing ideas. And don’t forget ‘senior years’ start at 50 (or sooner), because of the stresses of the lifestyle. HOME is out there, we just have to create it, and it may not be in a windowless basement suite (shudder). 🙂


  2. That’s a shame it seems so easy to do.


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