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Peterborough Residents React To Waste Collection Service Changes

Written by
David King
and
and
November 7, 2023
Peterborough Residents React To Waste Collection Service Changes
Photo by Sebastian Johnston-Lindsay

New changes to waste collection services have received a mixed response from Peterborough residents since its implementation on October 31st, especially in respect to the deployment of the city’s new Green Bin program, collection schedule changes, and the requirement of residents to use clear garbage bags. 

Despite positive messaging and statistics from the City of Peterborough, residents have taken to the Internet with concerns about a number of related issues, with the popular subreddit r/Peterborough being inundated with posts about the Green Bin program that it now has a dedicated thread to related questions and concerns. 

The City claims that the first collection day saw “strong uptake” with “approximately 85% of eligible households in the Tuesday collection area placing their green bin to the curb for pick up,” according to a news release

“The requirement to use clear garbage bags is also being implemented successfully, with approximately 80% of households in Tuesday’s collection area using clear bags,” the report continues.  

Other changes to the City’s collection program include garbage set-out requirements, which sees the City doing away with garbage pails and bins at the curb, imposing weight limits and lift restrictions to target a residential Diversion rate of 75%.

The release also mentions the update to the City’s Waste Management bylaw in accordance with the Waste Management Master Plan. The City says that the implementation of this program will be progressive and seek to “inform and educate” residents on the matter, with the end goal of supporting the community throughout the administration of these changes.

“Eventually the new rules will [be] enforced, and items that are not in clear bags, or items in garbage cans will be left at the curb. In extreme cases of non-compliance, fines may be issued,” the release states. 

There have been a mix of responses in the Waste Management service changes online, seen through the chaos ensued on r/Peterborough and replies on the City of Peterborough’s posts on X (formerly Twitter).

Residents are taking to the Internet to either praise the diversion efforts or point out the program’s flaws.  A resident on X replied to the City’s post about green bin collection and noted that a quarter of their waste output had been diverted, and how they were “converted.” 

In reply to a post clarifying what bags residents are to use for compost and garbage, a resident in a housing complex admonished the City for multiple oversights and the City’s lack of reply to her concerns

Downtown residents, especially those in the Downtown Business Improvement Area, have been vocal in response to the changes. Most notably, residents in multi-unit residential buildings will not be able to participate in the green bin program, with the City citing that these areas will be “considered during a future phase.” 

When asked about the issue by Arthur, residents in multi-unit buildings described their disappointment with the lack of green bin programming for them. Specifically, they noted that the lack of the option seems to be in conflict with the implementation of clear garbage bags. 

While the City is not requiring residents of multi-unit residences to use clear plastic bags, many landlords are requesting tenants to make the switch. This has led some residents to report reservations about who has the power to enforce these new rules and the implications.

“My concern is that if [the collection service] sees compost in the garbage, they’ll leave it at the curb or fine the landlord,” one renter told Arthur. “There’s already pre-existing tension with our landlord, especially over large items, so these changes have not helped that situation.” 

Another renter had a similar sentiment. “I feel like a lot of these changes primarily had homeowners and renters in households in mind, not the majority of renters that live in apartments and residences.” 

During the initial stages of the Green Bin’s deployment, the delivery of the green bins themselves caused quite a stir. The month prior to the October 31st implementation date saw large trucks delivering the bins to addresses throughout the city. 

“I live in a house with four units, and we only had one green bin delivered,” a resident told Arthur. “It would’ve been nice to have a variety of [sizes of] green bins to choose from.” 

Residents have also been critical of the lack of quality control with the bins’ manufacture, with a r/Peterborough user posting a photo of a bin that had been gnawed through by pests, despite the bin prominently featuring a preventative lock on its lid. 

In the thread, another resident brought up a concern in relation to the City’s attempt at eliminating garbage pails and bins from curbsides, citing that “Animals are gonna animal - bins will get chewed and bags will get torn open because in an animal’s mind, there’s always the potential of food.”

In conversation with Arthur, City Councillor Gary Baldwin, the Waste Management Portfolio Chair, mentioned that the elimination of garbage bins was one of the changes he knew residents wouldn’t receive well, but was necessary due to the City’s acquisition of eight new garbage trucks. The trucks utilize a mechanical arm in order to reduce the number of injuries Public Works workers have faced in doing “thousands of pick-ups a week,” Baldwin clarified. 

An additional issue that residents have been vocal about is how public garbage, especially downtown, is inconsistently maintained by the City. Overflowing garbage cans on walkways and parks around the City is a normal occurrence, especially when garbage litters City sidewalks, streets, and green spaces with varying levels of hazard. 

A picture of an overflowing garbage can, sent to Arthur from a resident waiting for the bus outside of Confederation Park.

With the changes in waste collection, downtown curbs have also been subject to more visible garbage. While downtown businesses have complied with the clear bag switch, residents have noted that there are now “more bags than ever,” and garbage piles have begun to spill over onto sidewalk space.

Despite some oversights, the City is headed in a greener direction with the green bin program and the changes to waste collection, finally catching up to other large Ontario cities with similar programs. 

Waste management enthusiast and Town Ward 3 resident karol orzechowski supports the changes and overall diversion effort wholeheartedly. 

“I'm a pragmatist in the sense that no deployment of anything is ever perfect, especially when it involves ‘the general public.’ People don't read, or research, they react, so things that have been clearly spelled out are often overlooked.I have no doubt that the City planned for a high margin of error in the short term, but I think overall it’s a net positive,” he said.

Councilor Baldwin was also hopeful for the future of waste diversion in the City. The culmination of a three year project that has cost the City over $15 million, he hopes that as pick-up cycles continue, the changes will become “second nature” to residents. 

For more information on the waste collection changes, visit the City of Peterborough’s Garbage and Recycling Services Portal or Connect Peterborough’s page on the new garbage collection program. 

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