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County looks to curb waste collection problems with new contracts

County committee voted to explore separating recycling and garbage/organics contracts; switching to four-day-per-week model to help retain staff
Miriam King/Bradford Today

The County of Simcoe is exploring its options for future waste collection, hoping to stop abuse against drivers, confusion over the Blue Box Program Plan and help with staff retention numbers.

With the current waste collection contract for garbage, organics and recycling to expire on April 1, 2022, county staff have opted to be proactive by identifying issues with garbage collection county-wide and is working to solve them through the new contracts.

In order to meet the deadline, a procurement process to obtain a new service provider will have to be initiated during the fall of 2019.

According to the staff report prepared by Willma Bureau, contracts and collections supervisor with the County of Simcoe, manual waste collection is a very physical and challenging job to perform, and there have been instances of physical harm against drivers county-wide.

“Drivers routinely jump in and out of trucks 2,000 times per day and may lift in excess of 13 tonnes of waste daily,” wrote Bureau. “They perform these duties in the elements and in temperature extremes. In addition, drivers are frequently verbally abused by angry residents for adhering to county waste policies, and occasionally they are even physically assaulted.”

These factors have contributed to difficulty retaining staff, which means overtime costs are also creeping upward.

“Over approximately the past year, there were 91 days -- 49 per cent of the total collection days -- which the contracted service provider did not have a full complement of drivers to service the county,” she wrote.

Currently, waste collection in Simcoe County is done by Waste Connections of Canada.

The staff report outlines suggestions to deal with staffing issues, such as switching from a five- to a four-day collection schedule.

“The current waste service provider... also services the Region of Peel which has a four-day collection week,” wrote Bureau. “Staff there prefer the compressed week due to increased flexibility in their personal schedules and the three consecutive days off gives more time to recover from the physicality of the work.”

“This... allows an extra day to catch up when there are collection impacts due to severe weather or holidays falling during the week,” wrote Bureau.

Another suggestion brought forward in the staff report is the implementation of an an automated cart collection system.

“Automated collection can significantly speed the rate of collection as the driver does not have to take time to exit and re-enter the vehicle,” wrote Bureau.

“The seconds saved at each stop add-up to almost two hours saved per day per truck when performing 1,000 stops per day. Automated cart collection also virtually eliminates inappropriate interactions with the public. Cart collection expands the pool of workers as it allows older, more experienced drivers, to perform waste collection as the physical aspects are minimized.”

Uncertainty regarding the Blue Box Program Plan (BBPP) is another issue brought up in the report.

Prior to the 2018 provincial election, The Waste Free Ontario Act was to require that producers (the brand owners of printed paper and packaging) become 100 per cent responsible for the costs of the BBPP by 2022.

Since the election, the project has been put on hold, leading to uncertainty over who will be responsible to pay for blue box recycling which is why the county wants to separate the contract out.

“Despite the current uncertainty, until the program transitions, the county is required to deliver blue box recycling services and therefore must procure a vendor to provide service to our residents in the interim,” wrote Bureau.

County council voted in Committee of the Whole to move ahead with the process to obtain proposals for two waste collection service contracts: one for garbage/organics and one for recycling collection, based on a four-day collection schedule, each with optional pricing for automated cart collection. The decision would be ratified at council on April 9.

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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