Same waste, new challenges: Growing pains plague Edmonton's waste cart system

·4 min read
Automated pickup of green and black bins started with a pilot project that took place in 13 neighbourhoods during 2019. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)
Automated pickup of green and black bins started with a pilot project that took place in 13 neighbourhoods during 2019. (Natasha Riebe/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton's new waste bin collection system is experiencing growing pains, with some residents finding the bins too small for their household garbage or organics.

Most single-family dwellings in Edmonton received a 240-litre black bin for regular garbage, which is picked up once every two weeks. Households were given the option to choose a 120-litre black bin.

As well, every household received a 120-litre green bin for food scraps and organics, which is picked up weekly in the spring, summer and fall and every two weeks during the winter.

But Cassia Budinski, who lives in the northeast community of Ozerna with her family of eight, said it's a struggle to fit all the regular waste generated over two weeks into the 240-litre black bin.

"There's still a couple of bags left over after garbage pick up, in my garage, waiting for the next one," she said.

Twice, collection crews didn't empty the full bin because she had squeezed in bags, resulting in some getting stuck in the bottom, she said.

When Budinski called the city's 311 information phone line, she was told her she'll have to wait for the next pick-up day.

Now, she's on a waiting list for a bigger 360-litre cart, which the city is making available to families with seven people or more.

The city started rolling out the cart system earlier this spring, following an 8,000-household pilot project in 2019.

Chris Fowler, the city's director of waste strategy, said 93 per cent of curbside collection homes now have the carts and all 250,000 homes are expected to have them by Aug. 30.

Coun. Jon Dziadyk said he's heard from residents who have an excess of yard waste and during Monday's council meeting, raised a motion suggesting the city offer residents the option to buy bigger green bins.

"These are people that are currently stuffing their green bins to the top with grass and leaves and weeds and compressing it down as far as they can get," Dziadyk said.

Dziadyk's motion was rejected by council as a whole.

The city conducts two yard waste pickups each year, in the spring and fall, when residents can put out larger amounts of leaves, branches and other organic materials in paper or clear plastic bags. Those materials can also be dropped off with no fee at city Eco-Stations.

Coun. Tony Caterina noted the city's "go bagless" campaign has been encouraging people to leave grass clippings on their lawns.

A waste of bins

While some residents are struggling with bins that are too small for their needs, others households are experiencing the opposite problem.

Thomas Ferleyko owns a central Edmonton fourplex, which has one person residing in each unit.

Combined, the four tenants generate material to fill one-and-a-half green bins, and half a black bin per pick-up cycle, Ferleyko said.

But, they received four new green bins and four black bins, half of which sit idle, he said.

"They're just occupying space in my garage," Ferleyko said in an interview Wednesday.

Each of the four units in the fourplex is billed $47.22 each month, he said. According to the city website, the monthly amount will rise to $48.32 for households with the 240-litre garbage cart.

He's happy with the city's bin system but would like to see a billing adjustment based on the waste being generated.

"I just want to be rewarded for not producing a lot of waste," Ferleyko said. "I just want to pay for the bins that I use."

Thomas Ferleyko
Thomas Ferleyko

Fowler said every address registered with the city's waste services department receives one set of carts by default. The optional smaller garbage cart is accompanied by a slight reduction in the monthly fee.

Coun. Michael Walters suggested that before making changes, the city needs to give the new cart system time to gauge how it's working.

"Just let it roll out — let's see how it performs what kind of needs citizens have, residents have over the coming year."

Gord Cebryk, manager of city operations, said the plan is to evaluate the system next spring and see what needs to be tweaked.

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