City of Nanaimo staff updated city council on the Phase 2 rollout of automated garbage collection at a meeting May 28. (Global Affinity Communications Inc./City of Nanaimo)

Automated garbage collection about to roll out for the rest of Nanaimo

City staff says new garbage truck will be needed next year

With Phase 2 of automated garbage collection about to roll out, the City of Nanaimo is looking at what’s next for waste pickup.

A new truck by summer 2019 and a possible pay-as-you-throw system after that are some ideas that will be discussed later this year.

The Sort Toss Roll Phase 2 implementation plan was presented at Monday’s council meeting, and the rollout is expected to happen on schedule, city staff reported. The total project cost, according to a staff report, is $7.9 million, including $4.1 million for carts and $3.3 million for eight trucks.

Delivery of the carts will commence for north and south Nanaimo starting June 11, automated collection will begin in some areas the first week of July, and the system will be fully implemented across the city by the end of July.

Coun. Bill Yoachim said his neighbourhood has automated collection and he has become a “total believer” in the system.

“I was probably one of the skeptical [ones]. In the last year and a half I wasn’t sure, you guys heard my comments in closed doors,” he said. “I’m a believer. It’s phenomenal … I look forward to all residents having what we experienced in Phase 1 because it’s a great system.”

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Charlotte Davis, city manager of sanitation, recycling and public works administration, said so far there have been no injuries to workers on the automated routes, while workers have continued to sustain injuries on manual routes. As well, she reported that contamination of recycling has gone down.

“Which is quite unusual for an automated system and Recycle B.C. are very pleased with us for that,” she said.

Former city manager Tracy Samra had expressed concern about organic waste processing capacity, but according to the Phase 2 implementation plan, prepared by Global Affinity Communications, there is a low risk of problems as Nanaimo Organic Waste is undergoing upgrades.

“[The Regional District of Nanaimo] is currently negotiating to expand processing capacity with Nanaimo Organic Waste, so that’s on their desk,” said David Thompson, city manager of sanitation and recycling.

New route will be needed soon

Looking ahead, Davis said due to the growth of Nanaimo, a new garbage collection route will be necessary in 2019, and that will mean the city will need to purchase another truck and hire another worker. According to a staff report, optimal maximum route size for one of the large trucks is 650 stops on an eight-hour shift.

“Our route sizes have not changed with automation,” Davis said. “We are no more productive with automation than we were with manual collection, save the fact that we’re also now collecting yard waste.”

She said staff will bring a business case to council for the new route and Bill Sims, director of public works, said the new route would not yet have been factored into the city’s financial plan.

“That worries me that we’re talking new routes when we didn’t talk about that two years ago,” said Coun. Jerry Hong.

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Incentivized waste diversion to be discussed

Another concept raised at Monday’s meeting was pay-as-you-throw. Davis said since the city began separate organics collection in 2012, waste diversion rates have stagnated at 64 per cent and further measures will be necessary to achieve the 90 per cent diversion rates that the RDN is working toward.

Davis said the city could charge by “set outs” of garbage and organics bins. (Recycling set outs would be unlimited.) There would be a baseline chosen – Davis used 12 set outs per year as an example – and households sticking to that threshold would pay less and households exceeding it would pay more.

“It could be seen as more equitable, but it might not be popular with everyone, for example families with babies in diapers…” Davis said. “This is the most progressive way we can manage our waste collection and I think the best way that we can increase diversion in our community, but it certainly represents a big change.”

The implementation report also suggested the city should investigate picking up recycling once a week and picking up organic waste once every two weeks, “based on volumes of waste by stream since implementing Phase 1.”

Coun. Ian Thorpe congratulated staff on their work on the Sort Toss Roll program.

“I’m really pleased to see that not only are you apparently prepared for Phase 2, but you’re also already looking ahead for options an innovations in coming years that will help increase our diversion rate and serve our citizens better,” he said.

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