As a guest of the garbage collection crew, I had the opportunity to discover that the saying “Nobody knows you like your garbage man!” is true.
Last November the City of Pickering passed a bylaw to legislate a four-garbage bag/container limit and mandatory recycling (a “red tag” gets placed on the fifth bag). I was curious about the effects of the new system, so I consulted garbage collector Brian Savage, the regular on my route. “The new four-bag limit has forced many residents to recycle better,” said Mr. Savage. “Now we can service a larger area before heading to the transfer station.”
Still curious about the new system, Stuart Salsbury, a manager at Canadian Waste Residential Garbage Removal approved a garbage tour of the city. “My crew does a great job,” Mr. Salsbury said. “However, in trying to enforce this new law, the men have encountered a fair amount of flak from some residents — eggs have been thrown at the truck.” I knew then that I was in for an interesting ride.
On a cold December morning, I donned work boots and gloves, and climbed aboard the big truck The rear-load truck holds a capacity of 10 tonnes in winter (12 tonnes in summer when materials are not frozen).
I was immediately impressed by the efficiency of the two-man crew. It didn’t take long to realize that there’s more to the job than meets the eye. I saw that several residents had improperly placed their garbage to the curb, many others had put out unacceptable items.
“It’s usually the same people who put out a mess each week,” said Mr. Savage.
We passed the house of a resident who usually takes excess bags across the street. I was distressed to witness another resident drop off two bags in front of someone else’s house.
I was also concerned that there were a number of reusable items at curbside and I was powerless to save them from going to landfill. The space in the cab was so tight that I couldn’t possibly have managed to salvage even one of the four computers we came across for either reuse or recycling.
We came across more careless waste in the townhouse storage units. On average, these residents are the worst recyclers, some say because of the inherent anonymity.
During December and early January — when more waste is usually generated over the holiday season — Pickering politicians relented to complaints and ordered the Canadian Waste crews to return and gather all extra garbage set out. The decision was made to extend extra garbage services because the bylaw was still quite new, there was a shortage of red tags, and not all of the calendars with the four-day limit message had been delivered. By mid-January the bylaw was back in place.
The following are some tips I learned on my tour.
Place bags at curb by 7 a.m. It is dangerous for the garbage collection staff to cross the street for late risers. One can neither see nor hear on-coming traffic from behind such a large vehicle.
Set Blue Boxes and garbage on separate sides of your lawn; garbage can be missed if hidden behind recyclables.
Avoid parking cars on the street during collection day. These cars make it difficult for the truck to manoeuvre, especially on small crescents.
“Buddy-up” for quicker collection. If there is a bag limit in your area, notify the garbage collectors that you are grouping together and keep the pickup house under the bag limit to avoid any confusion by replacement crews.
Be considerate and take care to bundle items well. Crews offer you a valuable service; they are not your servants to gather loose, unmanageable debris.
Break up non-recyclable glass (i.e., broken mirrors and drinking glasses) and place it in a marked container. If glass goes through the crusher loose it can shatter outwards and cause serious injury.
Hypodermic needles should never go into the garbage. They must be put in a sealed container and taken to a pharmacy, HHW depot or a hospital for proper disposal.
Collectors do not take doors, windows or building debris. Paint or motor oil should be brought to an HHW depot.
Each bag should not exceed 50 lbs. (23 kg). If you have to drag it to the curb, don’t expect someone to pick it up.
Larraine Roulston is with Recycling Resource Service, based in Pickering, Ontario.