When the County of Simcoe sent out a mailer last month outlining details of the new waste collection contract to start in November 2021, Joanne Sinclair shook her head.
There was no way the new automated collection carts were going to fit in her single-car garage.
So, the Collingwood resident decided to take some action.
Sinclair is one of many residents of Collingwood and Simcoe County who have expressed concerns about the new County of Simcoe waste collection contract, slated to start in November 2021. Under the upcoming contract and voted upon by councillors in late 2020, the decision was made to obtain 240-litre garbage carts, 360-litre recycling carts and 120-litre organics carts for all property owners across Simcoe County.
At that time, various size options were discussed, but ultimately councillors voted in favour of one standard size, with Rehrig Pacific selected to manufacture the bins.
“We’re not against what they’re trying to promote. They’re creating a system that works for the waste management people, but it doesn’t appear they’ve given much thought to how it’s going to impact not only residents, but developments in terms of appearance,” said Sinclair.
Sinclair started a petition in her freehold condominium subdivision of Blue Fairway in Collingwood to have the county reconsider the bin sizes. After collecting 69 signatures, she sent the petition to all 32 members of county council and some staff members. She hopes it will make a difference.
She notes some of the talking points from the County of Simcoe include that the new bins only take up more vertical space. When reached by CollingwoodToday.ca this week, Mayor Brian Saunderson also addressed those concerns.
"The footprints of the carts are not that much bigger than the existing blue boxes they have, or the existing garbage cans they have," said Saunderson. "They're just taller."
“That’s completely misleading, because they’re a triangular shape. The top is much larger,” said Sinclair. “There’s no physical way it can happen.”
The new large bins also gives Sinclair pause when it comes to diversion and reducing overall waste which should be the goal, she said.
“We’ll be giving everyone – single people, two-person families, or families of four or five – opportunities to use more with these giant compartments,” she said.
Cal Patterson (not the former mayor of Wasaga Beach), who also lives in Blue Fairway, is one of the residents who signed Sinclair’s petition.
“We really have no place to store these darn things,” said Patterson.
Patterson said he has spoken with Mayor Brian Saunderson, and has sent correspondence to the County of Simcoe, however has not received a satisfactory resolution to his concerns either.
“(Mayor Saunderson) said they’re setting (the new bins) up at the library and we can come have a look at them. We know how big they are. We don’t need to look at them,” said Patterson. “I feel like no one is willing to come out and look at our situation.”
“We’re frustrated because the bins are coming in August. I would have liked to discuss this before we got the bins,” he said.
Patterson and his wife moved to Collingwood in 2018 from Saskatchewan. He said they used the larger wheeled carts when he lived in Saskatchewan and he found them easy to use there, however they had a much larger home that worked well with the bins, whereas now they’ve downsized and that’s no longer the case.
“They worked in our situation (then). Most people out here don’t use all the bin space they have now. These large bins are over the top. The one-size-fits-all solution is a big mistake,” said Patterson.
Gene Melnyk, who also lives in Blue Fairway, said while he understands waste collection is dealt with through the County of Simcoe, he wishes the Town of Collingwood would have also taken a leadership role in communicating the change to residents.
“We don’t have the lot sizes or garage space here. People are going to have to store them in their driveways and it’s going to look like a garbage-bin ghetto,” Melnyk said. “We’re not against the bins. (We’re against) the one size only. We need a choice here.”
Melnyk said he wouldn’t mind paying extra for alternate bin sizes if it is the cost that is the issue.
“This isn’t just our issue. This is an issue for the whole town. It’s our money. We want input,” said Melnyk.
Richard Gibson lives in the Briarwood subdivision in Collingwood. He said he’s aware of the Blue Fairway petition and shares most of the concerns about the size of the bins brought forward by the residents there.
“I followed every story I could back in the winter when the decision was made. It felt very fast,” said Gibson. “Lots of people had concerns. I felt like council wasn’t listening.”
Back in April, a smaller bin pilot project was approved by county council for a condominium development in New Tecumseth to start in November. Condo owners in Green Briar/Briar Hill will be given two 120-litre carts for garbage and organics, and one 240-litre cart for recycling.
After reading about the pilot project in CollingwoodToday.ca, Gibson said he felt there was no way council would budge beyond that project based on input from residents.
“At that point, I felt defeated. There was nothing to fight. It was done,” he said.
Gibson said he previously lived in Toronto, so he knows what the bins are like. He notes that in Toronto, different bin sizes are offered for an additional cost. Looking back, Gibson said he wishes there had been more public consultation before the final decision was made.
“There should be consultation. This is something that is so visible, and part of people’s weekly life,” said Gibson.
Rob McCullough, director of solid waste management with the County of Simcoe, acknowledges the county has been dealing with a lot of questions and concerns regarding the new bins.
He said the most common concerns the county has heard include storage space, the bins being difficult to move and residents in rural areas with long driveways having more difficulty getting them to the curb.
“Until people have the bins in their hands and are able to use them, it’s hard to relate what the change will be like,” said McCullough.
McCullough said county staff do curbside audits four times per year to determine how much waste the average home produces, which is what informed the staff recommendation on bin size.
“Everyone gets the same level of service,” said McCullough.
While other communities that use the automated bins offer different sizes, such as Toronto and Guelph, McCullough said when the county consulted with those communities as part of their research, they were advised by those communities that if they could do it again they would not implement multiple size options.
“There are big ramifications that come with that, mainly cost,” said McCullough. “When you let people choose sizes before a program starts, what we’ve seen in the data is most people will underestimate the size (they need) and that then requires significant reshuffling of resources.”
“In talking with the staff in those municipalities, it was their recommendation that we go with the single average size rather than do what they did. We learned from their mistakes,” he said.
However, McCullough said it's possible the county would consider alternate sizes in the future once the system is rolled out and they have a chance to look at what is working and what isn’t.
“We’re going to be watching the pilot project (in New Tecumseth) very closely. We are also going to be releasing a full survey on the new program mid-2022 and will get the results of that survey back to council so they can make decisions on any changes they’d like to make,” said McCullough.
Saunderson said he would be willing to bring resident concerns on bin size to the county table after the rollout, should he hear significant feedback from Collingwood residents to that effect.
"I think there are some transition issues that need to be dealt with, but without people having an opportunity to first try the carts, we felt it was premature to implement (alternate sizes) county-wide, at this point," said Saunderson.
The County of Simcoe will be running a virtual public information centre on the new automated cart collection program on July 21 from 6 to 7 p.m. Residents are invited to submit questions in advance. The deadline to submit a question is July 18 at 11:59 p.m. Questions can be submitted here.
Samples of the new carts have also been set up at the Collingwood Public Library for residents to experience in-person during the library’s regular operating hours.
For more information on the new automated cart collection program including videos and a list of frequently asked questions, click here.