A public engagement process will be undertaken to look at shifting the current garbage tag system to bins suited for automated pickup by City of Powell River’s garbage trucks.
City chief financial officer Adam Langenmaier reported at the Tuesday, August 13, committee of the whole meeting that this is the start of the future of solid waste management in Powell River.
Langenmaier said the city has taken ownership of garbage trucks with automated arms for dumping garbage. He said the city needs to start utilizing them with standardized bins so people can wheel them out to the curb and the garbage truck can come dump them, rather than crews manually picking up garbage bags and placing them on the trucks.
Langenmaier said there are five different size options for garbage bins. He said the essence of his presentation to council was to seek approval to start a public engagement process to gauge what size of bins people want and what works.
He said he has worked in municipalities that have gone through the process of transitioning to automated pickup of these bins and researched other municipalities that have gone through the process.
“The same theme comes back: you need choice,” said Langenmaier. “Some people create more garbage. Some people in a single household create very little garbage. How do you provide services to different types of users but maintain a system that works well for the municipality?”
Part of the issue is that the current system allows people to purchase garbage tags, stick them on the bag and then it is manually picked up by the garbage truck driver. The employee on the truck sees the garbage has been paid for and puts it in the truck. Revenue is generated through those garbage tag sales.
One of the proposals for when the city goes to an automated bin is changing the fee structure and eliminating the bag tags on garbage. The tags will still be there in the event that a household has extra garbage, but for regular pickup using the bins, householders will not be required to affix a tag to the garbage.
Langenmaier said this poses a problem, because some people can save money by being garbage conscious. They currently might only use a tag a month. He said those residents cannot be lumped in with the same cost as people who might use four tags a week.
“I have a proposal that uses a small bin and a large bin,” said Langenmaier. “This allows for garbage-savvy people to still realize some savings, and it allows for garbage un-savvy people to pay their fair share of their increase in garbage.”
To garner more information, Langenmaier said he would like to do a combination of online surveys to get feedback from residents, and bring in a sample of the bins to different locations around the community so people can see what a 360-litre bin looks like compared to an 80-litre bin. This will help them to gauge what is suitable for them, he added.
When the city asks people what size of bin they want, they can have the opportunity to touch and see the various sizes.
“We’ll be looking to purchase about 5,200 bins at the end of this process,” said Langenmaier. “I haven’t set an end date for this purchase because I want to make sure we do the consultation well so when this does roll out, it is a fundamental shift in the current garbage services.”
Councillor George Doubt said he was glad to see public consultation happening. He said the garbage containers people will use depends on the size of their families and how good they are at composting and recycling.
“I can see that it makes economic sense to be picking up containers at everybody’s house along the street because it is an economically more efficient thing to do,” said Doubt. “The driver goes down the street picking up all of the garbage in an automated vehicle and doesn’t have to get out of the truck to pick up the garbage.
“”It’s about trying to figure out how to get the right-sized containers to people and there needs to be some choices. I’d like to see the end of those garbage tags.”
Doubt said the tags might be what leads to people dumping in city garbage and litter bins.
In his report to the committee, Langenmaier proposed monthly rates for garbage pickup, rather than purchasing tags. The rates would be dependent upon the size of garbage bins householders select.
Cost of purchasing the 5,200 garbage bins is estimated at $500,000, and could be paid for by the householder, or the city, depending on council’s direction.
The committee voted that staff be directed to start a public engagement process to collect feedback on garbage can sizes for use with an automated collection system on city garbage trucks.