Swift Current residents will have to be mindful of physical distancing when they take their yard waste to the two drop-off locations for free disposal.

The City of Swift Current has announced a few modifications to the popular residential yard waste program, which opened on April 21 and will continue until Nov. 10.

“We've had very good success through the past years that we've been running them,” City General Manager of Infrastructure and Operations Mitch Minken said about the program. “It gives people the opportunity to drop off their clippings and leaves and branches in an easy format, knowing that they're going into our compost program, which we got up and running fairly well and are expanding this year.”

There is a southside and a northside location for free disposal of yard waste. The southside site is located at the corner of Dahl Street and 2nd Avenue SE on the former St. Joseph’s school site and the northside site is in the Innovation Credit Union iPlex parking lot, but in a new location on the lower level of the parking area.

These sites are opening slightly earlier than usual this season, but Minken felt many residents will be using the service due to the pandemic measures that is keeping people at home.

“We're maybe just a little bit earlier than we have been in the past, but we're anticipating that everybody is at home and has time to clean their yards this year,” he said. “So we expect the volume is going to be pretty great, particularly in this clean-up mode here.”

The operation of this year’s residential yard waste program will be similar to previous year, but with one major exception. The COVID-19 measures will require residents to practise physical distancing while they are at the site.

“We worked hard to develop a system that's going to be safe for everyone where there’s single vehicle or two-vehicle drop offs, depending on how the site is set up, and everybody else will stay in their vehicle until it's their turn, and there will be people there to monitor and control that,” he said.

The separate bays will be at ground level for ease of disposal. There will be staggered entry and only one vehicle will be allowed service at a time. People are requested to follow the directions of site attendants and to remain in their vehicles while they wait in the designated parking.

“First and foremost be patient as you come to the site, as it's going to take a little longer to drop than maybe it has in the past,” he said. “You'll be asked if you got clippings, you'll be asked to empty them out of any type of bag you have. We're not in a position to accept even biodegradable bags in our system yet. So anything that comes in has to be dumped out and of course the branches are to a certain size and just keeping them to the right size will help us out.”

Anyone with mobility issues can remain in their vehicle at the bay and an attendant will then unload their yard waste.

Residents are asked to separate wood and branches from organic yard waste before they leave their homes.

Acceptable organics include weeds, soil, plant matter, flowers, leaves, grass clippings, woodchips, fibre plant containers, brown paper yard bags, and thin sticks 1/4 inch or less in diameter.

Acceptable wood trimmings are branches with a thickness between 1/4 and 8 inch diameter, or less. Oversized branches must be taken to the City’s landfill for disposal, and charges will apply.

Unacceptable material for disposal at the yard waste locations are plastic bags, biodegradable bags, pots, non-compostable material, and animal waste. Lumber pallets and painted, stained or treated wood must be taken to the landfill for disposal.

The City is expanding its compost operation and yard waste disposed at these two locations will be used for that purpose.

“We're able to take more of what we take in, we'll be able to put into the program and actually turn it from yard waste into compost,” he said. “So we're really looking forward to getting some productivity there.”

The City will be using the compost for its own programs and is developing a plan to provide compost to other users.

“We're working on our marketing plan right now,” Minken noted. “We won't be providing it directly to the retail customer, directly to someone, but we are going to be providing it to some landscaping contractors that will be able to provide it to residents as well and then the rest will be used in other applications. We have some intention to use it within the City's programs as well, within our parks.”

The hours of operation for the residential yard waste program are Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6-9 p.m., Friday afternoons from noon to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sites will be closed on Sundays on statutory holiday weekends.

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