St. John’s looks at automated arm garbage trucks

Josh Pennell
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Members of St. John’s city council go through a regular council meeting Monday. Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff chaired the meeting. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The City of St. John’s may adopt an idea from Mount Pearl in the near future: an idea of how to collect garbage more safely.

At a regular meeting of St. John’s council Monday,  the possibility of bringing automated arm garbage trucks into the capital, as was done in the city of Mount Pearl last year, was discussed.

Such trucks are also in use in many other larger municipalities in North America.

The specialized garbage truck turns the job of garbage collection into a hands-free one, whereby an automated arm on the truck ext-ends and grabs onto specialized bins.

The idea of bringing such a system to the residents of St. John’s had been discussed at a meeting of the public works and environment standing committee.

Coun. Wally Collins brought the findings of that meeting to council chambers Monday.


The main reason for bringing in such a method is safety, he said. The hands-free approach is safer than having city workers handling garbage. Last summer, a city worker suffered a severe cut from a piece of glass inside a garbage bag.

Collins said there are a lot of considerations that have to be taken into account before it’s decided if it’s a good method of garbage collection for the capital city. Old St. John’s has a lot of narrow, steep hills that could make navigating such a vehicle impossible. There’s also the issue of on-road parking in the downtown and parts of the city’s centre.

In Mount Pearl, the garbage bins are left at the ends of driveways. The truck pulls up and the arm grabs the bin. It was listed in the meeting agenda that this would be quite difficult in the densely populated areas of downtown where people don’t have driveways and must park on the roads.

Coun. Frank Galgay, who represents Ward 2, which includes the downtown, made it clear during the meeting that large portions of his area would have to be exempt.

“This would not be an appropriate means of collecting garbage in those particular areas,” said Galgay.

The cost of such a collection method was also discussed.

The estimated cost of bringing the project to the streets of St. John’s would involve a Phase 1 of outfitting collection trucks and purchasing a number of the garbage carts for a total of $1,240,000, and a further $3,665,000 in Phase 2 to buy the remainder of the carts.

In Mount Pearl, the specialized bins are provided for residents free of charge. The city then owns the garbage cart, but the resident is responsible for its care. Each cart has a number that makes it easily tracked should it get lost or stolen.

Galgay stressed that taxpayers should not have to pay anything extra for the new garbage collection method to be brought in. Coun. Gerry Colbert also raised the point that the city had just been through something of a change in garbage collection method that did cost the taxpayers.

“We just put the taxpayers of St. John’s through the expense of buying these nets,” he said, referring to the nets required to cover garbage for part of the year.

Coun. Sandy Hickman said he saw this as moving onto the next stage of cleaner, safer garbage collection.

“We went to the nets and now we’re going to the next stage,” said Hickman.

Collins said it was something they would look at further later in the year.

“We’re going to look at it, but we need a lot more information.”

Organizations: Ward 2

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, North America

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Recent comments

  • Bluebell
    March 12, 2013 - 13:18

    RJ had some positive coments and suggestions. Maybe the garbage bins could be weighted down? We do have winds in other parts of Canada, generally to a lesser degree. ( We have blizzards, tornadoes,big thunderstorms & plow wInds In the prairies.)This system has been operation in other parts of the country for years! It was a very clean, convenient & organized system when I lived in another region of Canada. It is unfortunate however to hear about the " tax hikes", perhaps it may be unaffordable. Regardless of expense, affordability & availability.....some may never like change.

  • Chris
    March 12, 2013 - 12:47

    I would like to see the whole garbage collection process privatized. How much of our municipal taxes go to paying for garbage collection? Why does a household that makes a shopping bag's worth per week have to pay the same in taxes (or more if their property tax is higher) as another house that produces dozens of bags? In other countries like Ireland, garbage collection is operated by private companies. You pay a monthly fee to one of the local companies and they provide you with two or three bins (garbage, recyclables, and some places a third for organic garbage) that you leave our once a week for collection. Your bill is based on weight with the heavier fine going towards your non-recyclable garbage. Hence, Ireland has no problem encouraging people to recycle (since being wasteful comes out of the house owner's pocket). No strikes from public unions battling over entitlements from the local government. No increasing fees to cover escalating pensions. No need to increase fees to pay for new technology. The companies do that themselves in order to gain your business. Win win I think. Furthermore, if garbage trucks with robotic arms looking for bins can navigate little Irish streets they should have problem navigating St. John's roads.

  • Anne
    March 12, 2013 - 12:41

    They've already decided to raise taxes for the next 2 years, and they want to spend another $5 million replacing a functional garbage collection system? We've got to get rid of this bunch in September, seriously.

  • gm
    March 12, 2013 - 11:54

    Good Lord! how do these people select priorities for spending my money? Put that money into potholes & street upgrading !!!

  • Whaddaya At
    March 12, 2013 - 10:25

    Well well well ,whaddaya know, looks like the old farts on St. John's City Council are gonna follow the lead of the City Council of Mount Pearl and use automated arm garbage trucks. As always, the Mount Pearl City Council is willing to provide any advice and the geezers and geezerettes on St, John's City Council that will improve their service to their taxpayers.

  • RJ
    March 12, 2013 - 10:18

    Perhaps if they could get this to work out in such a way where they would need less people employed in garbage collection (saving money), pay out less in workers comp and LTD (saving money), while providing the public with a free weighted garbage can which would not blow around in the wind or come with an unreasonably high replacement cost when it did blow away or was stolen it would be a good idea. If the cost of savings of reduced laboru and injuries could absorb most of the cost of the program I say go for it. It would definitely be a nice change to see some form of organized and synonymous garbage collection system in place. I definitely won't miss seeing granny's flower print sheet blowing down the road after collection or having to pick up busted open bags of garbage the plow carries along in the winter. Perhaps this system could also be in place for the recycling program as well. Hell, while you're at it bring in a curbside composting program as well. Give us 3 bins - black for garbage, blue for recyclables, and green for compost.

  • Keanman
    March 12, 2013 - 10:12

    I can't say that I'm looking forward to having one of these monsterous bins sitting in front of my house all week because I have limited access to my backyard.

  • Brett
    March 12, 2013 - 09:58

    Business Man: So what do you think the chances are of the union agreeing to rolling back salaries for employees wince they won't have to haul as much stuff themselves? Or the layoff of employees that are also now unnecessary? Why don't these articles ever have comparative figures? What will the maintenance cost be on the trucks that will be replaced? How long before they are phased out anyways? What is the additional cost this service brings? What are the costs of garbage pickup in cities with these devices compared to same size cities that have equipment comparable to our current equipment? Would the 1 noted injury to the garbage man have been avoided had better gloves/overalls been provided?

  • proud newfoundlander
    March 12, 2013 - 09:34

    Massive tax increases, do not see any reduction in expenses at city hall, any expenditure by this council will cost in the long run. Remember this council in September DO NOT RE-ELECT THEM

  • a business man
    March 12, 2013 - 09:32

    They have had these in Ontario for years. It is good because it allows the garbage to be collected with less workers. Also, it allows the employer to pay less to new hires because the job is a lot easier. Also, it will reduce the incidents of worker injury which while important, is far less important than the amount of money that can be saved with using this technology to eliminate the need for some workers.

  • DREW
    March 12, 2013 - 09:10

    NO No No I do not want one. For anybody working, you put it out at 8:00 and don't get home til 5:00. They will be in the street with the wind or end up at somebody's cabin. If somebody parks in front of my cart and the truck can't get to it, will the truck come back or is my garbage there for another week? How many incidents have affected the garbagemen over the years? Do we spend millions because 1 man gets cut?? Give him better clothes.

  • saelcove
    March 12, 2013 - 08:20

    The savings will come from layoffs why not tell the truth

    • Steve
      March 12, 2013 - 10:02

      I want the truth Council. Tell us how many people will be laid off with this plan.

  • P F Murphy
    March 12, 2013 - 08:11

    "Not have to pay anything extra"? Do Galgay, Colbert, Breen et al remember that we have just had a massive tax grab from this Council. We pay for everything, unless the Council are going to refund their pension claims to fund this project. Breen's - not mentioned here - comment that the $5 million would not be a problem demonstrates to me how hosed St. John's taxpayers have been by these last tax increases. Remember these comments form them next September when you're voting!

  • Mindy
    March 12, 2013 - 08:01

    Every week I see garbage cans rolling on the streets after collection. The wind is an important factor here, how can we prevent empty cans from rolling down the streets?