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Let’s Talk Trash: On a roll with garbage carts

Instead of placing garbage bags at the curbside with a pre-purchased bag-tag sticker, City of Powell River has switched to carts that do not require stickers or even the use of garbage bags
Rollable garbage bins are now in use for residents in City of Powell River. A truck using an automated arm lifts and empties the bins, and the use of garbage tags is no longer necessary.

The more trips you’ve had around the sun, the more you realize that change is a constant companion.

The story of trash in City of Powell River has had many chapters, most infamously the many years it burned the region’s waste in an open-pit incinerator in the middle of town. Fortunately, waste management systems can change for the better, even though they require some adjustments by the community.

The city is now shifting how garbage is collected. Instead of placing garbage bags at the curbside with a pre-purchased bag-tag sticker, the city has switched to rollable garbage carts that do not require stickers or even the use of garbage bags.

While the goal for the region is to put garbage on a diet, should residents find their cart (able to fit two garbage bags) too small on rare occasions, they can still purchase bag tags (now $5) for an additional bag. Because waste is being collected by a truck with an automated arm that requires room for the grabbing mechanism, recycling bins and garbage carts need to be one metre apart and garbage carts should allow for three meters of clearance overhead so the cart can be lifted without obstruction.

Because we live close to nature, there are a few constants that have not changed. Reducing odour in our waste is the best way to avoid attracting the interest of furry or feathery creatures. Smelly waste such as fish bones or absorbent pads for meat products can be frozen until collection day.

Compost can be managed in a well-maintained backyard composter or dropped off for free at the Town Centre Recycling Depot six days a week. Rinsing out garbage carts with one part vinegar to three parts water helps remove absorbed odours as well. If you are throwing in loose materials, adding a few leaves or a soiled pizza box on the bottom can reduce the need for as much rinsing.

Beyond this, keeping waste indoors or in your cart in a locked shed can help dissuade interested critters. Wait until the morning of collection to place your cart at the curb – with wheels facing your dwelling – to reduce the time your cart is out. That said, carts should be placed no later than 7:30 am when staff begin their routes.

Staff members are willing to work with residents’ needs and assist where they can. If mobility proves a challenge, contact the city’s operational services secretary (, 604.485.8657) to enquire about alternatives to the new garbage cart system.

Residents are encouraged to think outside the box. If you are finding the cart too large for your needs, you could collaborate with neighbours and share a cart as well as responsibilities for putting the cart out on the day of collection. 

Those of us who find ourselves chasing the truck down the street in our pyjamas after hearing the truck heading down our street may appreciate a more civilized reminder. You can sign up for a friendly reminder via text, email or phone by going to the city’s webpage for its curbside reminder service.

When it comes to waste, compostable materials make up about 40 per cent of the average household’s waste. Stay tuned for the next phase of automated cart collection in Powell River, which will allow for pickup of compost at the curbside.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s (qRD) waste-reduction education program. For more information, email or go to