Something needs to be done about garbage pick-up delays, and it needs to be done now, says Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councillor Gary Burroughs.
The repeated non-compliance of Emterra collections, sometimes late into the evening and often a day or two delayed, “is not acceptable,” said Burroughs.
NOTL residents regularly report their Thursday pick-up doesn't occur until Friday, and sometimes Saturday, he said. Calls to Niagara Region, which has contracted with Emterra, produce a response that trucks will be out in full force the next day and will get caught up, but that doesn't always happen.
The issue has become dire for some residents, and several candidates for the October municipal election are making garbage pick-up, and better co-operation from the Region on several issues that impact NOTL, a priority.
The issues causing the delays, said Burroughs, who is now running for Town councillor, include the number of throwers—the person who throws garbage on the truck—who don't show up for work, and the number of trucks that are down for maintenance.
There are routes in five or six municipalities, including NOTL, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, which have suffered the most frequently missed deadlines.
Staff shortages occur most often in the coldest and hottest weather, when throwers call in sick, and we've had an unusually cold winter, followed by an extremely hot summer, Burroughs said.
The trucks are the other issue—they were intended to last the length of the contract, said Burroughs, and it expired two years ago.
At that time, he said, the Region extended the contract until 2021, based on a proposed change in Liberal provincial legislation, which was going to put recycling in the hands of the producers, such as cardboard manufacturers. That could have made the Emterra trucks, which are sectioned for recycling, obsolete. The producers could decide who to contract with for recycling, not necessarily with the Niagara Region, so the decision was made to extend the contract with Emterra to cover the period when those change-overs would be occurring.
Now, with Doug Ford and the Conservatives in power, it's uncertain whether the recycling responsibility will be handed to the producers, Burroughs said, and Emterra can't get enough trucks, which are past their life expectancy, on the road to cover its routes.
Regional staff, looking at non-compliance of the contract and with few options for handling a deteriorating situation, has chosen to respond by fining Emterra, and has done so to the tune of more than $600,000—but that's not helping the situation, said Burroughs.
“In my mind, I'd prefer to be paying the throwers more and getting our truck fleet in order. That's what we should be pushing Emterra to do.”
Garbage pick-up deadlines have not been met in NOTL for some time, he said, and the delays are a huge problem for residents. They put their garbage out Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, and if it's not picked up by the end of the day, they are likely taking it in overnight and putting it out the next day, to avoid animals getting into it.
One solution is for Emterra to contract and pay for other haulers to work the routes it can't cover, but most other haulers don't have trucks with recycling bins, Burroughs said.
“It will be a real challenge. It's a mess.”
Up until the time the province started talking about new recycling legislation, “nobody was talking about garbage. It was a non-issue. Emterra was doing its job and nobody was complaining.”
Now, residents don't really care what is causing the delays, “they just want to know what we're going to do about it.”
The regional staff looking after garbage are the best in the province, said Burroughs, but other than issuing fines, there isn't much they can do.
Senior level Regional politicians need to sit down with senior management at Emterra, and work out a solution, he said.
'Has anybody asked Emterra what they think we should do? No. That's what we need to do next. We need answers, and we need them now.”
It the answer is contracting with more haulers, “let's get on with it.”
Waiting until after the election is too long, and unnecessary, he said. “We have a budget for waste management. The head of Emterra and the head of the Region need to sit down and tell us what to do with it. It can and must happen now.”