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'Green' effort part of community building

East Richmond residents are being encouraged to "go green" this Saturday by disposing of non-recyclable trash, as well as unwanted electronic goods that can be refurbished or recycled.

East Richmond residents are being encouraged to "go green" this Saturday by disposing of non-recyclable trash, as well as unwanted electronic goods that can be refurbished or recycled.

It's all part of the inaugural Trash & Electronic Recycling Drop-Off Day at Cambie Community Centre where for a minimum $2 donation you can get rid of all manner of household junk.

But it's not just about tidying up - it's also a way of generating community pride, said Balwant Sanghera, president of the East Richmond Community Association.

"Once you bring people together, that's a step towards community building," Sanghera said, adding it provides them with a sense of ownership of their neighbourhoods, which in the east Richmond area finds itself in a unique position from an environmental perspective.

"We have the largest industrial complex in the city sitting right next to the largest agricultural community," Sanghera said. "When you put both of those together, then environmental sustainability comes to the top of concerns. And environmental sustainability is one of our major goals."

Helping achieve that in past years has been a oneday, annual, spring clean-up effort that draws hundreds of volunteers to pick up trash from the King George Park area. Plus, other volunteers help beautify the community by planting flowers in public spaces along the No. 5 Road and Cambie Road corridor.

"In general, people have become, over the years, a little bit more responsible about how they throw things out," Sanghera said. "But there are still some items that need picking up."

And that's where Saturday's event comes in, said Tatiana Micenko, community development coordinator at Cambie Community Centre who outlined what can and can't be dropped off.

"For the trash, it's basically anything you can't recycle," Micenko said. "No massive pieces of furniture, but things like broken chairs, torn rugs, and patio furniture."

For the electronic recycling portion the community centre is working with the Electronic Recycling Association to give a second life to those goods which are no longer needed, and even refurbish those items that can still be used.

"That can be those outdated, yet fixable phones, desktop computers, TVs and printers. The recycling association donates the working and fixed goods to local charities, which is a wonderful service," Micenko said. "A lot of people still don't have phones or a television and would be happy to have one."

While there are transfer stations that will accept old electronic goods, Micenko said the community centre's drop-off day is an attempt to also build community spirit and engagement.

"The association also wants to be a leader in environmental responsibility. And we're taking it to another level with this event."

Getting rid of electronic waste, in a proper manner, is a mounting problem in Metro Vancouver.

E-waste accounted for 35 per cent of the recyclable materials cited for violations during inspections at Metro Vancouver waste facilities in 2013. That's up from 20 per cent in 2010.

The figures were in a report presented recently to the Greater Vancouver Regional District's Zero Waste Committee, of which Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie is chairman.

"There was no cause for alarm, but it does highlight the distance we still have to go to meet our diversion targets," Brodie said. "We've still got a long way to go, but as a region we're around the 58 per cent waste diversion mark and we want to get to 70 per cent by next year."

Funds raised on the dropoff day will be directed to the Cambie Community Centre's programs and services.

Micenko said the Hamilton Community Association has been holding a similar clean up day annually with great success.

"We're hoping to bring that kind of response just a little bit west and clean up our community here," Micenko said.

For more information, call 604-233-8399.

- with files from the Vancouver Sun