Hundreds of people called City Hall to complain about new garbage restrictions early this year, a new city report reveals.
City staff fielded 208 calls from residents between January and February regarding garbage collection, with the majority of callers complaining that garbage was not picked up.
Ninety-eight callers inquired about garbage that was not collected – mostly when the limit was enforced in January – or had general inquiries about collection services, said Jennifer Peters, the city’s utilities manager and Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, in their joint report to city council.
The 80-litre, one-can limit came into effect Jan. 1 but the city and its contractor, Emterra, gave residents a two-week grace period where two cans were collected but the second was pasted with a warning tag to prepare residents for the change.
By the third week, the new rules were implemented but many residents were unaware of the volume limit.
“There were many calls to the city and the contractor from residents concerned that their garbage had not been collected as it was tagged as being over the allowable limit,” said Peters in the report. “In assessing the public’s reaction, it was apparent that the new regulations were not fully understood by the public, and as a result, city staff and Emterra agreed to delay the full implementation of the new limit until April 4.”
Currently, one can with up to 128 litres of garbage is allowed and some people would like to see that stick.
According to the report, 22 callers said they would be satisfied if the limit was one 128-litre can while just seven said they were able to manage with the 80-litre limit.
Another 21 callers said they would like to see the limit returned to the previous two cans.
Of all callers, 44 said they had special circumstances that would warrant two cans per week under the new regulations.
Peters said those who would be considered for a special circumstances pass generally fit into six categories: large family; family with children in diapers; home-based daycare; or home care of elderly; disabled persons, or other medical condition.
Peters noted staff did receive calls from residents with large families, home daycares and children in diapers who said they are able to meet the 80-litre limit.
Although city council will have the final say, the report recommends the city not give out these special passes as it would mean increased service for some, while paying the exact same amount as those only receiving pick up of up to 80 litres.
Staff also believe it would be difficult for households to prove they meet the eligibility requirements for a special pass.
“To ensure residents would not abuse a potential special circumstances pass, residents would be required to provide proof that the household fits the defined criteria to qualify for a pass,” said Peters. “A method would need to be developed to allow for an annual review of all pass holders to confirm they still apply for the pass.
“It is anticipated that the administration of such a pass would prove to be cumbersome. It is also possible that some residents, especially those with medical conditions, would find the qualification process invasive.”
The report also says there is a small number of users who actually fit into the special circumstances category and the existing regulation – that those who need a second can purchase a $2 tag – is more consistent with the user-pay approach applied to the garbage collection service.
The report was up for debate at Tuesday’s city council meeting after the Mirror went to press, and councillors will decide whether or not to adopt a special circumstances pass at the meeting.