How Do We Collect Garbage?

On December 10, 2010, in Speaking Up, by Justin

The City collects residential garbage from 278,000 homes in Winnipeg using five different collection methods. This is more than most major North American cities. There are benefits and challenges to each system. What method makes the most sense economically, environmentally and socially for Winnipeg? Tell us your thoughts on the way we collect garbage from your home and what you think the garbage collection system should look like.

Residential collection methods – single family homes

Residential collection methods – apartments and condos

Percentage of homes served by the different collection methods:

Percentage of homes served by the five different collection methods. Multi Family 37%; AutoBin 9%; Cart Automated 15%; Manual 39%

Manual collection

Manual collection image

What is it? Workers pick up garbage bags and containers by hand and load into the garbage truck.
Where is it? 108,000 homes east of the Red River and south of the Assiniboine River.
Garbage Limit? None
  • Becoming outdated.
  • A garbage collector picks up an average of 9,000 kg of garbage a day.
  • The physical demands of this job result in an average career of 5 years.
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to staff as the waste-collection industry is moving towards more automated technologies.
  • Unlimited amount of garbage allows for minimal diversion.


AutoBin pickup image
What is it? These shared bins started appearing in 1992-1993 and are usually in back lanes. About six homes share one bin.
Where is it? 5,200 AutoBins serve 25,000 households and 700 commercial properties in several parts of the city including Wolseley, parts of the West End and in West and Old Kildonan.

About 1,000 homes use a smaller roll-out cart. These 450 litre carts service individual homes and function like large wheelbarrows. These are used in areas where trucks cannot access back lanes to service regular-sized AutoBins.

Garbage Limit?
  • None
  • AutoBins hold 2,300 litres of garbage or about 380 litres per home.
  • They are emptied on an as-required basis.
  • We are one of the last remaining Canadian cities to use AutoBins.
  • This method is becoming outdated.  Other communities in North America are moving away from this type of collection due to the high replacement cost for bins and vehicles.
  • Easy targets for illegal dumping and arson.
  • Typically have lower rates of recycling participation.
  • Does not promote diversion.

Carts – Automated

Automated carts collection image
What is it? Rollout carts were first used in early 2010. The collection truck uses a mechanical arm to empty the cart.
Where is it? 43,000 homes in the northwest area of the city
Garbage Limit? These carts hold 240 litres of garbage. Residents can upgrade to a 360 litre bin for an annual fee.
  • Requires less collectors per truck and is becoming the industry standard for collection methods.
  • Consistent look to neighbourhoods
  • Less windblown litter because the containers have lids.
  • Since they were introduced in Winnipeg, the amount of garbage generated per household with an automated cart is 20% lower than homes serviced by manual collection. Recycling in this area has also increased although the exact amount is not known at this time
  • Does not allow for occasions when customers have extra garbage (e.g., after holidays).

Multi-Family collection

Multi Family Collection Bin
What is it? Front loading bins and AutoBins serve multi-family residences such as apartments and condos.
Where is it? 103,000 multi-family households throughout the city.
Garbage Limit?
  • None
  • Front loading bins hold up to 6,500 litres of garbage and are emptied up to twice per week depending on apartment size and bin size and number of bins at a location.
  • Similar to those of AutoBins.

Bulky waste pickup

Bulky waste collection image
What is it? A special pickup of large and bulky items (e.g., mattresses, furniture, appliances).  These items are not picked up with regular garbage collection.

Residents must call 311 to arrange for a pickup.  A fee applies to all except those living in neighbourhoods vulnerable to arson and abandoned waste.

For more information, visit the Special Garbage Collection Services Page.

Where is it? Available to all residents
  • Includes the professional disposal of ozone-depleting substances in fridges and freezers.
  • Bulky items that are abandoned are targets for arson and a risk to public health.

Garbage generated by collection method

The chart below shows the average kilograms of garbage generated for each collection method by household.

Average kilograms of garbage generated per year for each collection method by household: Mutli Family 410kg; Manual 917kg; Cart-Automated 770kg; AutoBin 1,780kg

The refuse collection day cycles map (PDF – 3.2MB) shows the different collection methods and collection day areas in Winnipeg.

Refuse collection day cycles map

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30 Responses to How Do We Collect Garbage?

  1. Pat says:

    I live in East Norwood where our garbage has always been manual pickup. I feel that some of the reasons given to eliminate this style of garbage removal are not completely accurate. The lifespan of a refuse collector being approximately five years is questionable. From my own experience this job was not a career choice, but more like a stepping stone to a better position in the civic workforce. The manual pick-up method works. Our back lanes are clean and most bulky waste fits in the truck. This method may not be as flashy as carts but it addresses the problems that plague the north and north-west parts of the city. Any change will most likely end costing the people of Winnipeg another fee that we can't afford!

  2. Dave says:

    Matresses and large waste are pulled from the tops of the large bins ,Auto bins .Contract pickup companies such as Laidlaw pull mattresses from the bins ….they plug up the hoppers of the trucks.If a number of over large items are filling the large Blue bins they are not picked up.
    The City of Winnipeg Auto bins are littered 'round them for the same reason Laidlaw often does not pickup the bin ..mattresses etc are too large to be picked up by the Trucks.The City cannot refuse to pickup the refuse, so the drivers have to dismount the unit tip out the oversize items ..mattresses then pick the rest of the waste.
    Are there reports made by City refuse workers as to where the mattresses are they can be picked up seperately?

    • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

      Dave, thank you for your comments.

      Contractors and staff communicate to remove bulky waste when it is set out. Residents can call 311 to report problems. Staff and contractors will investigate and remove waste as required.

      In some areas, where bulky waste is a problem, we have trucks that follow regular routes and pick up bulky waste as it is found.

  3. P Kovalik says:

    We love the automated carts, and would love to get on board with a recyling one. the blue boxes are too small and end up all over the road. I did notice the streets where a lot cleaner last summer with the new bins. About all I see now is recyling blowing all over the place

  4. Danielle says:

    In West Broadway, they need to get more recycling bins by apartments, you have maybe 12 huge garbage bins and only 8 recycling bins (which are much smaller) in the back lane on my block (Our block is almost all apartments, on both sides of the back lane). The recycling bins are often completely full a few hours after being emptied! Something needs to be done!
    Also, most of the autobins for garbage have been lit on fire multiple times, or had fire works thrown in them at 2 am, and they are all tagged. There's also a serious large furniture problem, in the summer there was couches, tables, mattresses at every bin. They do come about once a year to pick it up. Last year by the time they did it, our lane (one block) had 12 couches, 4 tables, 6 mattresses and a huge TV that was kicked and destroyed by the kids around the block.
    Composting would be a great thing. Actually, there are depots for compost in West Broadway, but I think there should be a pick up option or more depots in the rest of the city.

  5. Bob says:

    Note that they state "A garbage collector picks up an average of 9,000 kg of garbage a day" but don't display a number for the automated cart system. I suspect that human powered garbage collection is at least three times as fast.

    • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:


      While it is possible that a manual collection truck may collect faster than automated collection using carts, the automated truck requires only 1 worker rather than 3. The cart trucks service 15-25% more homes in a day than the manual collectors

      Based on our experiences so far, automated carts offer significant cost savings over manual collection. Many cities in Canada have switched to automated collection because of the cost savings and increase to diversion rates.

      Automated trucks also offer many advantages to the workers such as less risk of hand injury from sharp materials and lowered incidence of repetitive strain injuries because workers throw 9,000 kg, per day. The average career of a garbage collector is 5 years and staffing recruitment and retention is a challenge for the industry.

      Thanks for you comment!

  6. Whyus says:

    We have had the autobin behind our house (not fair why us for all these years?) and has caused us so many problems I cannot begin to list in one email. Suffice it to say that we all need to be resonsible for our OWN garbage not everyone elses. The smells,the vandalism, damage to our fence 3 times, the mess around the bin that know one wants to be responsible for, the security risk to enter our yard , the fact that when you want to barbeque on a summer evening and the smell it so bad, others dropping animal feces in as if it is a communal dump…need i say more. Please get rid of these. Wolsely needs them gone.

  7. Pat Thompson says:

    I live in the Garden city and we currently use the new garbage bins . I am very pleased with this new method of garbage collection and i find that we only have to put our bins at the roadside once a month for pick up as they are so large and easily hold a months' worth of garbage. We do recycle most items and I am anxiously awaiting the large blue bins for recycling. Winnipeg came up with a marvellous idea when it implemented this new way of collecting garbage and soon recycling, I hope.

  8. Lola says:

    We still have an autobin where we live. I would love to see it gone because where it is located, it serves about 9 houses because of lack of space elsewhere, and as it sits on our lot, we would gain a lot of space by having it gone. Everyone else might have some trouble with where to put their carts though and it would make driving that stretch a bit difficult unless people share as someone else mentioned.

    Personally, I wouldn't mind the carts because in our house we produce very little garbage most of the time but it is already necessary to have a matching sized or larger recycling bin. It seems like the people who complain of the carts being too small are not doing their part to recycle. So maybe an across the board change would be a good wakeup call though you are never going to change everyone. It upsets me that anyone could think that we have a "right" to generate unlimited amounts of garbage.

    As for the negatives, we are young and able to drag a cart around but I can see that some people might have difficulty with this due to disability etc. I also agree that although the carts will look good when new, they will eventually become old and worn and dirty and clutter up the lane creating as many problems as the bins, but at least it will be a new and different set of problems . . .

    We compost our own organics and use them in our garden, so I am not really eager to fund other people's compostables pickup but I can see the benefits.

    I would like to put a plug in here to encourage everyone to use compostable plastic garbage bags at home, to reject plastic shopping bags from stores and to encourage the city to put in place incentives for stores to adopt compostable bags and other measures to reduce all plastic garbage, which we know is mostly packaging.

  9. OHO! says:

    Get rid of the autobins. The City (I name the City, not BFI because my contract is not with an outsourced private enterprise) has now twice damaged my fence with careless pick-up and replacement. Add that to the odour, being a graffiti magnet, and people thinking "here is where I should dump my (insert large unwanted item), not behind MY fence", and replacing them with rollout carts becomes a no-brainer.

  10. Leanne says:

    I grew up in Brandon and when I moved here to Winnipeg 10 years ago I was surprised to see that they still used garbage bins. Brandon has been using these new curbside bins since I was in junior high school. A few years ago they also incorporated a curbside bin for recycling. The new curbside bins do prevent garbage from being thrown around unlike regular garbage bins.As the new curbside bins are difficult for wind to blow over, this is also better for when the bins are empty as not all people are able to bring their bins in right after pick up and this will prevent bins from being blown all over the street. The carts are very large and we have difficulty filling one before the next pick up. What I would love to see is for Winnipeg to crate ones for recycling as well and for those who like for composting as well.

    Yes this will cut jobs in half for garbage workers but in the long run it will help to save jobs because it will help prevent on the jobs injuries.

    This is a good move for Winnipeg!

  11. Derek says:

    It is very disturbing to see Winnipeg's low diversion position, 17%, relative to other major cities. This is not a contest, but we sure can do better; and it is facilities such as this web site that make us aware of our poor showing. More awareness programs in the newspapers and news broadcasts should also help. It is also clear, from reading the comments, that there will probably never be "one size fits all" solution to garbage collection; but there can be improvements to the current practice. I, for one, think the huge multi-family bins are ugly and are open to abuse. I'd get rid of them. I don't have the wheeled carts yet but I have used them and find that they are very easy to handle. I would certainly like to see "green" curbside pickup or more location for drop off. More drop-off locations for electronics would be helpful as now you have to drive a long way to dispose of a tv, computer, etc. Perhaps there could also be a periodic, e.g. quarterly, pickup of large items. Maybe this could be co-ordinated with the "give-away" weekends.

  12. B H says:

    There are two houses down my back lane that CONSISTENTLY generate huge volumes of garbage.
    These are private homes in the Crescentwood area.
    There is little if any reccling goiung on there.
    It is as though they are a buisness generating this, although they are not [?]
    We raised two kids [family od four] and never generated this kind of volume.
    I would accept easily, an automated cart behind my house,
    but they certainly would not work for these two houses.
    So what is the answer here ?

    Just as a footnote;
    one of the houses is a rental and another neighbour and I
    are always cleaning up crap left about the backlane.

  13. Bob says:

    Make it easy to what is right. Once people figure out a convenient way to do it wrong, changing their behaviour later will be a challenge.

    Disposing of special items needs to be easier. If I cannot put empty paint cans, used electronics, etc. in the recycle box or return them to the place I bought them, they will end up in the garbage. Last time I tried recycling electronics, it was an ordeal driving to one of the few depots that were open when I was available.

  14. beaker11 says:

    We have the new roll out cart, and it is great. I hope the City will continue with this type of garbage pick up.

  15. HMK says:

    I recycle (and compost) more than I throw away. Yet I have a HUGE automated cart for my garbage, a tiny recycling box, and nowhere to use my compostable materials.
    Give me an automated cart for my recycling that's the same size as my current garbage cart, an automated cart for garbage that's 1/3 of the size, and an equally small automated cart for my compostables…

  16. Craig says:

    I'm in Crescentwood and I would love to have automated cart pickup for both garbage and recycling. We regularily have twice as much recyling as garbage, so much so that it's often over flowing the recyling blue bins and blowing down the back lanes.

  17. Eric says:

    Autobins are fire hazards and eye sores. It seems where autobins are presant the garbage on the ground gets out of hand. If the city's intenion was to lower the property value of entire neighbourhoods I would say they did their job. The autobin behind my house has been lit on fire three times and most recently it has destoryed my fence because when they pick it up the snow falls under and when they sit it down the bin has no where else to go but in my yard. So now it lays at a 45 dagree angle half way threw my fence. I phone all the time, at least twice a month about different things that that eyesore creates. I'm almost at my wits end with those things.

  18. Robin says:

    Get rid of the autobins.
    In the winter they are difficult to get out to the street for someone who is reasonably fit for two elderly neighbours they have to call for help,
    In the summer, as a previous runner up in take pride winnipeg, I have to store excess plant material and have it carted away.
    Thanks for raising the fees at the dump.
    Thanks for the small garbage cans.
    Thanks for putting a dump at my community club.

    Thanks for not rasing my taxes (although I paying more in taxes) this year

  19. Jodi McLaren says:

    I have been trying to get our autobin replaced with a the auto cart. The autobin sits right next to our back yard and in summer we can't even been in our yard for the stench it emits. It took me 3 calls to 311 to get a lid put on it.
    Also the number of "others" dropping off their junk and large garbage items around the bin just because it is there – is staggering. If that spot wasn't a designated "garbage spot" by the city, and our auto carts were in our yards, no one would feel that dumping their garbage in our driveway was acceptable. Please replace autobins with autocarts asap.

  20. Danno says:

    I have the roll out automated cart and I love it…way to go City Water & Waste. To the plentiful Nay-Sayers…make a change and embrace new systems. Its great to have one bin, filled with garbage throughout the week and roll it out to the street on Garbage Day. No more bags of smelly garbage lying around my garage. What I really would LOVE next is to have the same consideration given to Recycling. I'd love a roll out automated bin for recycling as well! Except bigger than the garbage ones as I currently put out 5 of the blue boxes every garbage day.

  21. Garett says:

    Autobins need to be replaced. Illegal dumping in our neighbourhood is rampant, as is the lack of recycling. We put out two containers of recycling and most of our neighbours put out none. There is a new four plex in our neighbourhood and the city has decided to put an autobin on the front street. It is getting tagged, overflowing and looks downright ugly.

    Get rid of the autobins.

  22. mr. spellcheque says:

    When will the automated carts be coming to St. Vital?

    Mr. Spellcheque

    • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

      Automated Carts is just one of the collection options that the Garbage and Recycling Master Plan will be exploring in Phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 should be starting next month.

      Our goal is to have the plan presented to Council this fall, and implementation would take place over the next few years.


  23. Cyndi says:

    We have the automated cart and as ulgy as they are I'm all for them. Most (not all) people who say that they are not big enough don't recycle. The only problem that I do have with them is this past garbage pick-up we had 12 days in between with Christmas and New Year's Eve garbage. Even with all the recycling we did the cart just wasn't big enough. I think that maybe when there's that many days inbetween pick-ups they could send out another truck to pick-up the extra garbage. I know that alot of people won't keep in stored in their garage or yard and stray dogs and cats are going to make a mess out of it. And chances are nobody is going to clean-up that mess.

  24. C. Allen says:

    Autobins need to go. What a ludicrous amount of garbage they generate. They are also the most unsightly of all the options and they are a hazard to vehicles trying to navigate back lanes in the winter. Autimated carts, available in three sizes (under 240, 240 and over 240 should be made available for both garbage and recycling with a surcharge or savings attached. ALL single-family dwellings in the entire city should be on this system. Neighborhoods with back lanes should have pickup there and those with front drives have no other option than to take them to the curb. There should also be an option for homeowners to leave them in the back lane at the end of their property if they wish, as not everyone will have room in the yard for these to stay all year long and some seniors may have trouble carting them around in the winter. If they go missing or are damaged, it should be the responsibility of the homeowner to replace them (i.e., purchase new one from the city).

  25. Sara says:

    I have the automated cart collection and dislike it for a number of reasons.

    a. The carts are huge (I agree with the previous poster that the city should offer incentives for getting a smaller cart) and hard to lug to the backlane, especially in winter. What are people with limited mobility supposed to do? Now instead of getting a bag to the backlane, they have to wheel the whole cart there?

    b. You're not supposed to leave the cart in the backlane after collection, but many people do leave them so that they don't have to move them back and forth (and possibly forget to put it out on garbage day). This means you now walk down a backlane full of huge, ugly carts.

    If the city really wants to beautify neighbourhoods, they would call for bulky waste pickup themselves when they see something has been sitting by the garbage for weeks. Sure, we can say that people should do it themselves, but some people are just not going to.

    In short, I find this an inconvenient system that has done nothing to improve the look of the neighbourhood or the convenience of garbage pickup. If anything it's made it more cumbersome and left more garbage on the streets.

  26. P.E.Rich says:

    I generate so little garbage that i share an automated cart with several neighbours,truck picks up 1 cart as opposed to 3-4

  27. Aaron says:

    A big improvement to the automated cart approach would be to allow households the option of a smaller than 240 L cart (with annual savings) rather than just giving the option of a bigger cart.

    Another way of encouraging more diversion would be to have the option of pickup every second week (with annual savings). Different coloured bins could be given to those choosing less frequent pickup so that it would be obvious to the drivers when to pick these up.