Automated garbage collection still in the works

Barb Sweet bsweet@thetelegram.com
Published on September 12, 2016

Steve Colford is the city’s manager of waste and recycling.

Barb Sweet/The Telegram

Automated garbage collection in St. John’s is getting another kick at the can.

The plan, which would see residential properties outfitted with special garbage bins that can be lifted with a mechanical arm on garbage trucks, was deferred this year due to budget restraints.

But public works chairman Coun. Danny Breen said automated garbage collection will be up for consideration by council this fall as part of the budget process for next year.

“The bylaw for covering garbage, it’s safe to say, is not really that effective right now,” Breen said in a recent interview at the Robin Hood Bay Waste Management facility.

“The gulls figured out how to get in the nets.”

The city’s fleet of garbage trucks needs to be renewed and the arms can’t be retrofitted, so if the automated plan doesn’t gear up next year, it could be several years before it’s in place.

Breen said he expects the downtown area would be exempt from automated pickup because of the row housing and lack of driveways for many residents.

Steve Colford, the city’s manager of waste and recycling, said streets have been identified where it logistically won’t work.

The city’s fleet of about 27 trucks is to be replaced on a rotation — so the arms would be phased in as new trucks are acquired — and the city generally gets nine to 10 years out of a truck.

In 2015, a report from the city’s finance committee pegged the cost of bringing in automated garbage collection at more than $6 million, with the bulk of the cost, $3.9 million, to be spent on carts to be issued to St. John’s residents.

Meanwhile, curbside recycling is down in terms of tonnage, but city officials think the types of material people have in their households might be having an effect on the numbers.

Still, they want more people to get in the habit.

Janine Piller, waste diversion supervisor, said recycling of paper and containers is down by a couple of hundred tonnes so far this year compared with 2015.

Plastics and other materials such as cans are lighter, which could account for some of the reduced weight, Piller said.

The residual numbers are also down and that’s good news — the city is at three per cent, the lowest in Canada, where most municipalities are at 10 per cent, Piller noted. That means only three per cent of the material that comes into the recycling operation — after being collected curbside — is deemed not recyclable.

“When we sell our materials, we’ve never had a rejected load, ever,” Piller said. “We have to thank our residents for doing such a great job. We encourage more people to join in.”

The highest tonnage numbers were in 2011 — 3,600 tonnes of recyclables. In 2015, the city collected 2,900 tonnes.

“I think we need to keep communication and education going and encourage people to recycle more, and certainly businesses as well,” Colford said.

The city charges $67.60 a tonne for commercial tipping fees, whereas businesses pay just $20 a tonne to bring in a commercial load of cardboard, which is recyclable.

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @bsweettweets