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Niagara Falls
Saturday, July 13, 2024
Minor hiccups, but people getting used to new garbage schedule, region says

It's the fourth week since a new garbage pickup schedule and contractor started across the Niagara region and, though there have been minor hiccups, people are getting used to the changes, a regional official says.

Garbage is now collected every other week by the new service provider Miller Waste. 

“In the first couple weeks, obviously, everyone's trying to get used to the new services, including the contractor,” Catherine Habermebl, director of waste management services for Niagara Region, said in an interview Tuesday morning. 

“They've had a number of new drivers, new routes, new equipment. It's a learning curve for everyone and it usually takes two to four weeks to iron out all the kinks,” she said.

In the first few weeks there were lots of calls and inquiries, and some people still putting out their garbage on non-pickup days, she said.

 “I drove around, even in my neighbourhood, I saw a handful of houses that had garbage out on the off-week.”

Contractors have been putting non-compliance stickers on any bags that are put out on the wrong week to advise the resident or business why the garbage wasn't picked up.

“We've had (stickers) made specifically for garbage placed out on the wrong week. So, it's a very clear message to the property owner that that bag isn't to be placed out that week, but to be placed out the following week.”

In week one, contractors estimated they issued about 50 or more non-compliance stickers for every 1,200 homes (about one in 24) for garbage set out on the wrong week. Now they're issuing about 10 to 15 stickers (about one in 100), Habermebl said.

She said it's a similar process to when the region changed garbage pickup in 2011 to one bag a week from two bags.

The region is allowing people to put out two garbage bags every other week, so the service remains the same, just with a new schedule, she added.

Those previous changes only took a couple of weeks for people to catch on, she said, but noted it wasn't as “impactful” of a change as switching to alternate week pickup.

Now that everyone has been through one cycle of the changes, fewer calls are coming in and there's been an uptick in people using the region's mobile app.

“We have a number of residents and businesses downloading our mobile app Niagara Waste, over 21,000 reminders have been set up,” Habermebl said.

Early data shows the region's goal of reducing waste and encouraging recycling and green bin use could be working, she said.

“We've seen — and now I want to caution because it is only two weeks of data — but the data is showing us that waste is down about 18 per cent, organics are up over 30 per cent and recyclables are up over 18 per cent.”

She said she's hoping those numbers continue to grow.

“Again, it is only two weeks. We're obviously going to monitor the tonnage. We'll be bringing a status update report to public works committee in December. By then we'll have a good month of data. And we're also going to be undertaking curbside waste audits that we do every few years,” she said.

Those audits check what is going into the trash, green bins and recycling boxes.

Habermebl encourages residents to download the Niagara Waste mobile app where they can set reminders for garbage pickup so they'll know what's being picked up on a given week.

“If they don't have a smartphone, they can go on the website and sign up for reminders and those reminders can come to you via text, via voicemail, via email,” she said.

The app will also let people know in real time if there are major collection delays and various other reminders.

“Last week we pushed out a message about, 'Don't forget to put your pumpkins to the curb as part of your green bin collection.' “

With the new contractor, she said there have been some “normal transition issues” that have caused some minor delays.

“You have drivers out there who may be new to the area, or may be familiar with the area, but they're not familiar with the new equipment, because equipment is very different than what they've been operating for the last few years under the previous contractor,” Habermabl said.

“There's going to be different routes, different maps that the drivers have to get accustomed to. So that's all going to add to your time.”

She said the collection times are getting shorter and things are trending in the right direction.

“We're very pleased with the first three weeks of the transition.”

She said sales of green bins have been up and that there is still “a good inventory of green bins” for anyone interested in picking one up.

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