Cold snap forces city to suspend trash and recycling collection, leaving some bins full for weeks

·2 min read
A grey bin for glass recycling out for collection after regular pickup was delayed in Vancouver due to a winter snow storm. (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)
A grey bin for glass recycling out for collection after regular pickup was delayed in Vancouver due to a winter snow storm. (David Horemans/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver residents are complaining to the city in droves after waste collection services were suspended amid the recent cold snap.

An unusually long bout of winter weather saw centimetres of snow throughout the city in late December, with continuous snowfall only recently being replaced by the region's usual relentless rain.

The amount of snow on the ground led the city to suspend trash collection on two days, Dec. 30 and 31, according to Albert Shamess, director of waste management at the City of Vancouver.

"What happens in Vancouver when we get heavy snow … is the laneways, where the majority of our garbage is collected, freeze and become really icy and really dangerous," he told Gloria Macarenko, host of CBC's On The Coast.

"The last thing you want is an icy lane where there's a 10-ton truck sliding down and banging into people's cars and garages."

Shamess says the city is still playing catchup, with around "two or three per cent" of the city yet to be covered as of Tuesday.

He says the relatively warmer weather and rain currently hitting the city would help crews fully empty all the bins soon.

"This weekend with a change of conditions, and the ice hopefully going, we'll be in good shape by the end of the weekend."

Recycling affected more than garbage, compost

The City of Vancouver is responsible primarily for garbage and compost disposal, while recycling falls under the purview of Recycle B.C.

Some Vancouverites have consequently had their recycling not collected for upwards of a month.

"We've seen some pretty significant challenges, not only in Vancouver, but across the Lower Mainland and frankly across the province, depending on where you live," said Recycle B.C. spokesperson David Lefebvre.

Lefebvre says there are specific reasons recycling pickups are being affected more than garbage or compost disposal.

"Often, a recycling truck is a single axle vehicle. It is lighter than a garbage or an organics recycling truck," he said.

"That makes it more difficult to navigate sometimes in these snowy conditions, these icy conditions, these slushy conditions."

Garbage pickup is also outsourced to contracting companies, according to both Lefebvre and Shamess. The companies have seen significant staffing challenges over the past few months, said Lefebvre.

Lefebvre recommended that people take their recycling to the depot themselves if they are able to, and also download the Recycle B.C. app so they can get alerted if drivers are unable to pick up their recycling on particular days.

"We do want to manage these materials responsibly," he said.

"And frankly, when we look back at the last 12 months with all of the different challenges that we faced — from impacts from the flooding, the heat dome, you know, atmospheric rivers and now this latest prolonged snowfall, it really has been a challenging year."

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