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City may cut Take It or Leave It

Ashley Peck, founder of the 7,900-member Facebook page Upcycling St. Albert, said she has also noticed a shift in the tone of Take It or Leave It in recent years.
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A photo of what could be the last ever Take It or Leave It event in St. Albert, taken in 2019. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert could be axing its annual Take It or Leave It event, which offers the collection of large items in good condition. 

Operating for more than 25 years, the event was put on pause due to COVID-19. Permanently cancelling the event in 2022 as part of a slate of proposed service cuts announced in the draft budget would save the city $15,000 per year, council heard Nov. 3. 

Kevin Scoble, the city’s chief administrative officer, told councillors the event is primarily funded through staff overtime, and uses about 30 staff in addition to expenses, including equipment and rentals. 

Scoble also said the event has developed some issues with scavenging by re-sellers. 

Olivia Kwok, the city’s supervisor for waste and diversion programs, told councillors more about the shift the city has seen in recent years in a Nov. 10 council meeting. Instead of St. Albertans getting the most use out of the event, Kwok said many non-residents have been stopping by instead. 

“It’s a pretty big gathering and it gets a little hostile,” Kwok said. “It’s lost the original community reuse feel.” 

Ashley Peck, founder of the 7,900-member Facebook page Upcycling St. Albert, said she had noticed the same shift in Take It or Leave It.

“It’s become one big free-for-all, to the point where even if the event happened in 2020, I probably wouldn’t have attended,” Peck said. “You have to go super early, and people show up with trucks and load them up.”

Though Peck started her Facebook group during the early stages of the pandemic to provide an outlet for spring cleaning, she said the atmosphere she has cultivated on the page is what she’s most proud of. 

For example, members of Upcycling St. Albert must abide by rules: they cannot resell the items they pick up on the page, and if they are taking several items in one day, they must pause their collecting to give others an opportunity to benefit from the gently used items up for grabs. 

In addition to ensuring items are distributed equally, and remain free, Peck said she’s also diligent in ensuring the page is specifically for residents of St. Albert, and that hateful comments aren’t present. 

“I take great pride in keeping Upcycling St. Albert a kind, respectful, and safe place to give away items,” Peck said.

During the Nov. 10 meeting, Kwok told councillors another reason the city sees cancelling the Take it or Leave It event as a viable option, is due to the range of alternatives available for redistributing items. Specifically, Kwok mentioned Facebook Marketplace, and Upcycling St. Albert. 

Kwok noted other municipalities have a “take it back” directory on their websites, and suggested St. Albert could include something similar, or build links to resources into their pre-existing Be Waste Wise App. 

Peck said she thinks it couldn’t hurt to spread awareness about resources such as Upcycling St. Albert, but noted she has some concerns with the city removing the event entirely. 

“Not everyone uses Facebook or technology,” Peck said. “Those individuals would not have access to these pages, and they still may wish to find or disperse items.”

Peck also noted some people might wish to remain anonymous, or private with their address, two aspects that platforms such as Facebook don’t easily allow. She noted making Take It or Leave It include a ticket system, where each person gets three to five tickets and they can only take that many items, might be a potential solution.

“That said, if the city would like to expand the [Upcycling St. Albert] group off of Facebook, I’d be willing to help,” Peck said. 

Ultimately, Peck said she loves the unique sense of community that has developed on the Upcycling Facebook page. 

“We could have a 25,000-member group right now, but we’re very diligent,” Peck said. “You can go on other Facebook pages and see negativity, but we keep that completely off our page, and it’s beautiful to see how much the individuals in our community really want to reach out and help others.”

Rachel Narvey

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