Toronto OKs private garbage collection deal despite lacking waste diversion stats

·2 min read
Green For Life is set to take over waste collection in Etobicoke following a vote by city council on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Green For Life is set to take over waste collection in Etobicoke following a vote by city council on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Toronto city council has approved a contract with Green For Life (GFL) worth some $88 million for waste collection in Etobicoke despite not knowing how the private company compares with city workers when it comes to waste diversion.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam sought to delay the deal until waste diversion figures were available — city staff have been asked to provide that information by January — but councillors voted 14-9 against her motion.

Council then voted 19-4 to go ahead with the deal with GFL, which will soon handle all collection west of Yonge Street.

CBC Toronto was first to report the city is now spending the same per household for city-run and private waste collection.

Currently, GFL and Miller Waste Collection, the private company serving Etobicoke now, are paid a combined $33 million to serve about 230,000 households west of Yonge Street, city staff confirmed in an email.

It costs the city $33 million to have its own crews collect waste from 237,000 homes east of Yonge Street.

The cost comparison isn't exactly direct — city staff note the west end has more operational challenges, including more collections on narrow streets, one-ways and even laneways — but it led to some sharp questions on the council floor Friday about whether or not the city should reconsider its decision to privatize some of its waste collection.

Coun. Gord Perks said the city can no longer compete with GFL because it sold off its garbage trucks. As a result, he warned, the city could soon be paying more for privatized waste collection than if it did the work itself.

"We are making ourselves a captive market," said Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park.

But others rejected that.

Coun. Jennifer McKelvie, who heads the city's infrastructure and environment committee, noted the decision was made last year to push ahead with privatized waste collection in Etobicoke last January, maintaining a system that has been in place for years now. Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, highlighted city staff's point that it's too late to move to in-house collection for Etobicoke at this point.

Don't mess up what's working: Etobicoke councillor

Coun. Stephen Holyday, who represents Ward 3, Etobicoke Centre, says his residents just "want the garbage gone" and are happy with privatized service. He urged his council colleagues not to mess that up.

Deputy Mayor Denzill Minnan-Wong, meanwhile, asked his colleagues to cast their mind back to the dirty, smelly garbage strike — a key moment in the city's decision to push ahead with privatized waste collection under former mayor Rob Ford.

"I can understand why my friends on the left don't want to mention this," he said.

GFL's winning bid was some $5 million cheaper than its nearest rival, Miller. The company is paid per tonne for the waste that it collects, city staff have confirmed.

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