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Waste collection delays continue; ‘There’s no silver bullet,’ says official

‘Our worst-case scenario would be to stop working with Waste Connections’: director of waste management
2018-03-15 - Garbage bags - AB
Garbage bags at the curb. Photo/iStock

Have your garbage, recycling, or organics been missed at any point this summer?

On Tuesday morning, Rob McCullough, director of solid waste management with the County of Simcoe, provided county councillors with an update on the difficulties solid waste management and their contractor Waste Connections has dealt with over the summer concerning curbside waste collection. The main cause of the difficulties is a widespread skilled-labour shortage.

“The short-term plan is (continuing) using outside contractors. The long-term plan is... we’re looking at getting new contracts in place earlier than we had necessarily looked at,” said McCullough.

Back in April, county council voted to move ahead with the process to obtain proposals for two waste collection service contracts: one for garbage/organics and one for recycling collection, based on a four-day collection schedule, each with optional pricing for automated cart collection. McCullough said during council on Tuesday morning that some of the options being considered will make the job more attractive to prospective applicants, and hopefully help address the labour-shortage issue.

The procurement process to obtain a new service provider is planned to be initiated during the fall of 2019.

McCullough said he and his staff had been asked numerous times why the county hasn’t just cancelled the contract with Waste Connections to start from scratch with another company.

“There’s not a contractor sitting out there with 63 trucks and 63 crews ready, willing and able to take over things,” said McCullough. “Our worst-case scenario would be to stop working with Waste Connections because there’s no one to fill that gap.”

“Since it’s a labour issue... any other contractor coming in is going to experience that very same issue,” he added. “There’s no silver bullet. All we can do is put a number of strategies in place to give us the greatest potential (for success).”

McCullough said verbal abuse being hurled at existing drivers has been reported by residents, but calling them “lazy” is far from the truth of the situation.

“The collectors that are out there are working very hard and it’s disappointing to hear those things,” he said.

The delays are being caused mainly by a skilled labour shortage that is occurring province-wide. McCullough said the going local rate of roughly $21 per hour for a collector doesn’t compare to the hourly rates being offered by construction companies for the same skills, which is translating to a roughly 80-per-cent staff turnover rate at Waste Connections.

“We’re not able to tell them to raise their rates,” he said. “They’ve had a very high turnover, but they continue to hire. We’re at a wait-and-see point.”

McCullough also said the provincial government making the move to force producers to pay 100 per cent of Blue Bin costs will have an impact on the process. He said a report would be coming to the county council table in the fall outlining what impact the new plans would have on municipal waste collection moving forward.

To read our original story on this year’s County of Simcoe waste collection delays, their cause and steps the county and Waste Connections have taken to try to alleviate the problem, click here.

The contract for solid waste management through the County of Simcoe is done with Waste Connections, previously called BFI. Earlier in August, county officials confirmed major delays led to the county hiring an outside contractor, Miller Waste to help pick up the slack for areas that were missed. Miller Waste, the company typically responsible for yard-waste pick up, have been on call to help with any further delays. Terra has also pitched in a truck to help.

On Aug. 3, the county put Waste Connections into default on the collections contract. On Aug. 13, county council voted to cancel September’s curbside e-waste collection dates in order to pick up the slack, however the efforts haven’t been enough to solve the problem.

To keep apprised of any delays or changes in waste collection in the County of Simcoe, the Simcoe County Collects app is available for free through Google Play and the App Store.

The information is also posted regularly to the County of Simcoe website and social media.

For regular updates on delays in trash and recycling pick up, click here.


Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings nine years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering county matters, court, Collingwood and Barrie matters
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