Residential Garbage Collection

On March 8, 2011, in Phase 2, Speaking Up, by Justin

Randy Park, the supervisor of waste diversion at the City of Winnipeg shares information about our residential garbage collection and why we are recommending automated collection using carts.

Video Transcript:

Hi, I’m Randy Park, the supervisor of waste diversion at the City of Winnipeg. I’m here to talk about our residential garbage collection.

Through Phase 1 of the Garbage and Recycling Master Plan, we heard that Winnipeggers want a garbage service that is fair and uniform.

We also heard that Winnipeggers want more convenient options for keeping materials out of the landfill and a garbage service to support those options.

The amount of garbage we currently throw out is not environmentally, economically or socially sustainable.

A household in Winnipeg throws out an average of 800 kg of garbage annually. The long-term cost of disposing and monitoring of all this garbage continues to increase every year.

Most of what we throw into our garbage can be reused, recycled or recovered.

There are currently three ways that we collect garbage from single-family homes in Winnipeg — AutoBin collection, manual collection and automated collection using carts. Having multiple collection methods is unsustainable, outdated and becoming expensive. Like other cities, we recommend a single collection system for all residents: automated collection using carts.

AutoBins are large communal garbage bins that are shared among 4 — 6 homes. These shared bins face challenges of illegal dumping, vandalism and low diversion. Winnipeg is one of the last remaining major Canadian cities using AutoBins.

The challenges of manual collection include staffing recruitment and retention, higher number of workplace injuries, and increasing costs. Cities in North America are moving away from manual collection because of this.

We introduced our third method of collecting garbage, automated collection using carts, in northwest Winnipeg just over a year ago

A standard-sized cart holds 240 litres of garbage — about 3 large garbage bags. Residents can upgrade to a larger size cart for an annual fee.

It would cost $7 million to provide carts to the remaining areas of the city. However, the collection cost would be less expensive than either manual or AutoBin collection.

Carts are becoming the industry standard for garbage collection in North America because they:

  • Increase participation in recycling, composting and other diversion programs
  • Reduce litter
  • Reduce worker injuries
  • Provide a secure method to store garbage
  • Reduce illegal dumping and arson

For more information or to give us your feedback on garbage collection and the Garbage and Recycling Master Plan, visit us at

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21 Responses to Residential Garbage Collection

  1. Kim says:

    I'm a north-ender. My neighbors and I are looking forward to the day when the autobins are gone for good. Gone will be the car parts from the illegal home-based chop shops, gone will be the construction material in the bins from areas far and away, gone will be the stench of bins no one ever cleans, gone will be the fires that start at the back of many of our properties, gone will be the mangled fences that result from a dropped bin, gone will be the mass amounts of recyclables that end up in the bins because people are lazy, gone will be the need for us to sweep up after the bin dumps a load, gone will be the need for us to dig the snowbank out from in front of them when the snow is plowed, gone will be the dents in the cars that pull over a little too far and scrape the posts on the front of them, gone will be the graffiti-riddled eyesores, gone will be the excuse not to reduce, reuse, recycle, gone will be the infested couches and mattresses that fill these every week, gone will be the people that sift through them every day for junk and leave a mess in their wake. I could go on but I have to run errands. All you naysayers, give it up because these things are old, dead, horses. They need to be removed and we need to move on to something better for everyone.

  2. Rose Russo says:

    I have noticed since the curbside garbage pickup more garbage which have flown of the truck or bins onto the streets, yards and boulevards. Either people are not packaging or bagging the garbage properly or the fact that they have no follow up sanitation workers to pick up the fall out is part of this disgusting problem. As a result our city is looking like a garbage dump or worse like a third world country. I think some kind of notice should be given and perhaps a fine to those homeowners who do not contain their garbage properly. This also should apply to blue boxes. Either that or put back at least 1 sanitation worker to ride the truck to pick up the mess.

  3. Garth says:

    Most people know that incentives work, while disincentives generally do not. Incentives make for happy taxpayers who want to work within the system. Disincentives make for disgruntled taxpayers who see reduced services and will attempt to circumvent the system. Here are some scenarios.

    Problem: You want to people to recycle more.
    Incentive: Provide high capacity recycle carts with lids.
    Disincentive: Tell people to recycle but don't provide proper bins or carts. Hire a pickup service that leaves recyclables littered all over the streets and back alleys and inexplicably leaves some materials in your bin even though they aren't stuck or frozen there.

    Problem: You want people to compost more.
    Incentive: Provide composite carts which are picked up weekly or bi-weekly, as in Nova Scotia (I lived there, it's a province-wide program, works great).
    Disincentive: Tell people to compost but don't provide any services.

    Problem: You want people to create less household waste.
    Incentive: Provide proper alternatives, like good recycling carts and a compost service.
    Disincentive: Force people to use a rolling garbage cart. Make larger households pay for a larger or a second cart. For households that may only periodically need a larger cart (I.e. family gatherings, house guests, renovations), don't give them any options and make them drive to the landfill. To top it off, periodically decide not to empty their cart because the lid is open by 1 inch, or it's an inch too close to a snow bank (which the city put there), even though it was picked up the prior week with no problem in the exact same location. In the case of narrow back lanes (this is Winnipeg), don't bother to raise the forks on the truck so you have to drive right up against the opposite fence and knock or drive over someone's recycle bins. Lovely.

    We've had the rolling garbage carts for a year, and here's my experience:

    What to do with yard waste? We mulch our grass but there's always branches, etc. that have to go somewhere and don't fit in the bin. We aren't allowed to burn them, so people just illegally dumped it all at the civic centre. The city gave in and took down the 'no dumping' sign. So the civic centre is now our local dump for yard waste. Wonderful.

    What to do when you have bulky items like styrofoam packaging or renovation waste after making a major purchase at a local retailer? Who's going to drive to the dump for a 1 kg load of styrofoam, so it's off to the civic centre again to dump it illegally (haven't done it myself, but it has become the norm in my neighborhood).

    What to do over the Christmas holidays when the garbage truck may not come for nearly 2 weeks? You could attempt to put everything in your rolling cart…it may not quite fit but you could hope the driver has pity on you due to the circumstances. Sorry, no. So now what? Are you going to drive to the landfill for a bag or 2 of extra garbage? I didn't think so. So it's off to the civic centre again, our new local dump. Perhaps it can be renamed to Civic Centre & Transfer Station, because that's what it is since we started using the rolling garbage carts. I'm sure the mice, rats and racoons love the new system.

  4. Stephanie Unger says:

    This proposed cart system may work in suburbs, where population density is very low. Often only 2 – 4 people are sharing a large house in the suburbs. In the north end and central and west end neighbourhoods, using a cart system will be neither fair nor "uniform", because population density means that if there is a cart provided for every 2 – 4 people as it will be in the suburbs, we will have so many carts in our back lanes that we will be unable to drive down them or park in our own driveways.
    The autobin system is essential in high density neighbourhoods where the number of people sharing a backlane makes individual garbage cans or carts completely impractical. It is not fair to expect 10 people sharing a rooming house or small apartment block to share a cart….as if people in the suburbs have the right to produce more garbage than people in lower income neighbourhoods.
    I live on a street where autobins are used. As long as the trucks actually come every week, the bins are sufficient in size and enable us to deal with the garbage that is not produced by us as residents. Our neighbourhood deals with a lot of garbage from the fast food restaurants, convenience stores etc that we as residents do not produce. If we are forced to fill our own personal cart with this kind of garbage, we will certainly not be motivated to keep our neighbourhood clean (do I choose to empty my household garbage can or clean up the back lane this week?).
    I have also lived on a street with garbage cans in the west end. This was a terrible system because people stole the bins, tipped them over as an act of vandalism, started fires in them and knocked them over with their vehicles. The autobin system may still allow for arson, but prevents all the other problems.
    I would be extremely disappointed to see the autobin system taken from our Spence Neighbourhood and would see it as yet another act of discrimination against low-income neighbourhoods and neglect of the needs of people in rental situations.

  5. Carolyn Garlch says:

    Secondly not all neighbourhoods are built alike. In some places the lanes are very narrow, and it would be hard for a vehicle picking up carts to manoeuver, and for many of these homes the front street is not an alternative in winter because they have no driveways at the front, and in the winter the boulevard is piled high with snow.
    A third way in which the one-size- fits-all does not fit all is when it comes to the size of the cart. We should look at cities that have various sizes ranging from one bag to several, with different prices attached to each. For seniors, who typically have only a small amount of garbage, a small one bag cart would be easier to manage. I like the idea of putting variable prices on the carts but giving a standard rebate to the household. In some areas the rebate is even slightly larger than the annual fee. This is a real incentive for people to reduce their residual waste, particularly after other options are in place.

  6. Carolyn Garlich says:

    One-size-fits-all is not the solution. There are diverse neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. 1. Most Winnipeggers are responsible about sorting waste and recycling, but there are neighbourhoods where there is a lot of irresponsible behaviour. The people who suffer most are the conscientious people who live in these areas. Autobins seem to have improved conditions in these neighbourhoods. Athough autobins have their own downsides, there may be some neighbourhoods where they should be retained. There are other areas like Wolesley, where they definitely should be phased out.

  7. RMOSS says:

    I also attended Monday's event. I recall going through a similar turmoil some years ago when the city wanted to introduce autobins. Now that we've had them for a while and the city has spent large sums of money supplying autobins & trucks, they want to eliminate them-now that's a waste!! Of course, nothing in this world is perfect and people abuse these bins, but on the whole, they are a neat alternative. Personally, I hope the city does not remove them and keeps the status quo. I cannot see how garbage removal with autobins costs twice as much-there are far fewer bins than roll-out carts, as homes share them. Emptying of roll-out carts is a very SLOW process and must use tons of fuel for the trucks, having to stop at EACH residence and slowly lift and replace the carts.

    • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

      Hi, thanks for you comment. Here's some information about our current costs of garbage collection and disposal:

      In AutoBin areas there are about 24,000 homes where we collect about 43,000 tonnes of garbage each year at a cost of $3.5 million = $145/house each year

      In cart area, there are about 43,000 homes where we collect about 32,000 tonnes of garbage each year at a cost of $2.9 million = $67/house each year

      In manual area, the cost per house (in the northeast) is about $3.1 million for 42,000 homes or $73/house each year

      • Ed Terlecki says:

        When you figure the cost of AutoBins are you factoring out all the illegal dumping by contractors and others who use the large bins because their small auto bins are not big enough for what they want to throw out.

        • Ed Terlecki says:

          sorry I meant cart not small auto bin

        • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

          AutoBins cost more than any other collection method for many reasons. One of the reasons is that some individuals and businesses dump illegally. The amount of garbage collected in AutoBin areas has been much higher than the city average for more than a decade and well before before carts were implemented in northwest Winnipeg. Participation in the blue box recycling program is also much lower in AutoBin areas compared to the rest of the city.

          Another factor to consider with AutoBin collection is that the collection trucks are nearing the end of their service life. Maintaining and repairing them is becoming increasingly more expensive. We are one of the few remaining cities still using AutoBins and there are few manufacturers left in North America that supply the trucks. They require an extremely long lead time to build each unit because there is no demand for them. If AutoBin equipment were no longer manufactured, it would impact our ability to replace and repair our AutoBin infrastructure. This is part of the reason that the other cities in Canada have discontinued their service.

          A cost that’s not part of the collection is the amount spent responding to AutoBin arson which was approximately $1 million in 2009. So far, there has not been a significant amount of arson related to Automated Carts

      • George says:

        Houses don't generate garbage. Its the people who live there that do. Why can't you compare costs on a per resident basis? I wouldn't be surprised if the Autobin areas had on average a higher population per house.

        • SpeakUpWinnipeg says:

          We often talk about garbage in per household terms because garbage is property tax supported. This makes it easier to compare volumes of garbage generated and costs on a per household basis.

          Additionally, in a sense properties do generate garbage. A house with a large lawn and number of trees will generate yard waste independent of the number of residents. If that yard waste is not composted, it contributes to the amount of garbage generated.

  8. Lorna says:

    Blue boxes should have lids regardless of how they are picked up. I can't think the debris potentially left blowing in the wind by automated carts for recycleables could possibly be any worse than what the BFI guys leave behind on the street – neither have any sentient component.

  9. Lorna says:

    I have been using the automated cart and have only one MAJOR objection. When the cart is emptied, the lid usually falls open. We have many months of winter in Winnipeg and it often snows on garbage day (oops, recycling day!). When the snow that has fallen into the cart melts in my garage and then freezes when the garage cools off , there are garbage bags and various other things, like the dead rabbits my dog brings me from the yard, frozen into the ice at the bottom of the cart. There have been many weeks on end this winter when my cart has never been completely emptied because garbage is frozen to the bottom. These carts are way too big to bring into the house to thaw (and who wants to thaw a dead rabbit and weeks old garbage bags in the kitchen anyway). Other jurisdictions, including one of the tiniest municipal jurisdictions in Atlantic Canada, use carts like ours with a raised grid in the bottom which allows moisture to drain to the bottom. Something similar here would be a useful design adaptation for any new carts.

  10. Kali says:

    In the North End, the autobins are still the best solution. As attitudes change perhaps we can look toward the personal automated carts. At the moment, the autobins are a dumping ground for many large and bulky items, this problem would only be exacerbated by switching to the smaller carts.

    The bins currently suffer from a fair bit of arson – they manage to survive because they are made of metal (the lids, well, not so much). What do we think will happen once the entire cart is made of plastic? The argument I'm sure would be to make sure your cart is in your yard, which is fine and dandy except how do you protect the cart for the night before garbage day (as most people bring their garbage out the night before) and what about people who may indeed bring the cart onto their property but don't have a fence? How will it be protected then?

    What about rental properties? The North End has areas that are more than 60% rental stock – how are we going to make sure those landlords have a cart for their tenants? When either a homeowner or tenant needs a new cart, who is going to pay for it? The replacement cost is well out of the realm of possibility for most lower-income residents, they will likely just choose not to replace them and either throw their garbage in a neighbours cart, thus reducing how much room the neighbour has, or just throw it in the back lane.

    Last but not least, who thought this cart thing was a good idea with our climate in the first place?? I can only imagine the seniors we'll be killing off as they struggle with both the cart and their pride to drag it through the snow filled back lanes back into their yard. Personally I think the idea is flawed city-wide, however it is potentially catastrophic in neighbourhoods like the North End.

    As much as I have a love-hate relationship with the autobins, they are the best option for the upcoming years. This is something that will need far more research and an extremely well thought out and publicized plan in order to succeed.

  11. Ed Terlecki says:

    I almost forgot,where am I going to empty the garbage bin overflowing with dog crap that is in the Seven Oaks Museum property when the auto-bins are gone,also the garbage bins in McGowan Park,fortunately the walkways in the park are never cleared so traffic in there is very low (the playground equipment will last a lot longer) I know where I would like to stick the garbage when the bins are gone!!

  12. Ed Terlecki says:

    I went to last nights open house ,the entire event is geared to agreeing with what I believe is the final garbage plan.I don't believe for one minute that the city wants input from us.The first guy I talked to at the open house told me that the city can't keep the auto-bins because the trucks are becoming obsolete ,they can't get parts or new trucks,if this is the case just tell us and quit wasting my time asking what I think of the bins.Right now there are problems with the bins because they are poorly managed,the city expects us to cut through their wall of red tape to report a damaged bin when the smart way would be to have the drivers of the collection trucks report the damaged bins ,people complain about large objects being left outside of these bins,wake up do you think the idiots leaving this stuff are going to start taking it to the dump when the city gives everyone roll out bins,NO instead what will happen is that crap will increase because the roll out bins are smaller than the big auto-bins.Right now when someone walks their dog and picks up after it they can throw the crap into one of the large auto-bins,when we get the roll outs that won't happen and more crap will remain on our walks.Now recycling ,in one of the windiest cities around our city decided that a blue box without a lid was the way to go,my street is covered with recyclables right after the collection even when its not windy,the only solution is a covered container,now lets line up another dozen or so meetings to discuss the graffiti issue,don't look at what Canada Post did to solve their graffiti problem on the red boxes because that works ,lets find another solution!!!!!! Ed Terlecki

  13. Linda says:

    Anything that the garbage men can't throw all over the place.

  14. charles frohlich says:

    Having lived in this house for the past 51 years,the large metal containers are the best,efficient and safest way to pick up garbage.In my location it is rare to have an overflow,so the lids keep flies to a minimum.In case nobody checked,I have timed the time the truck stops to the time it empties the container and pulls away is 30 seconds!In my opinion it would be another stupid decision to get rid of them

  15. Judith S says:

    When will there be carts in Weston?! I'm tired of the autobins here! Bring in the carts and soon! Also, lets switch over to carts for recycling too instead of having to have 4 little bins to hold everything!