City not ready for bi-weekly garbage pickup

While committed to lowering diversion rates, councillors were hesitant to approve the new model with questions surrounding the cost of service.

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The idea of bi-weekly garbage pickup in the City of Spruce Grove has been put on hold.

City of Spruce Grove Council voted on the widely debated topic of waste service level changes during Monday’s regular meeting.

Originally, it was proposed the City move curb side garbage collection, and winter organics collection to bi-weekly schedules. Discontinuation of the large item pickup, Christmas Tree Removal and Free Cycle programs were also included in the proposal. The motion was put forward in an effort to lower the city’s diversion rates which have been stagnating between 35 and 40 per cent for the past seven years. The proposal was made after extensive consultation including at least three public surveys.

While committed to lowering diversion rates, councillors were hesitant to approve the new model with questions surrounding the cost of service. Though the new model reduces garbage pickup by 50 per cent, it is unclear whether or not it will lead to a reduction in costs for the consumer.

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“The public is still very split on bi-weekly garbage collection, with 52 per cent of residents supporting the change, 44 per cent against the change, and four per cent unsure,” said Caitlin Van Gaal, environmental advisor with the City of Spruce Grove.

“Bi-weeky garbage collection does encourage diversion from the landfill, and helps decrease the city’s greenhouse gas emissions … however additional resources and funding may be required to educate residents on proper diversion.”

Council put forward an amended motion, to continue under the current model, until more is known about bi-weekly collection.

The City will maintain weekly garbage collection, and monthly winter organics collection in spring 2019, with the tendering of their new waste service levels contract. The annual Christmas Tree Program will be discontinued after January 2019. The City will, however, continue the Large Item Pickup Program and the Free Cycle Program will continue as run.

Council intends to have administration provide more information on bi-weekly garbage collection in the coming months, before revisiting the concept at some point in the upcoming contract. Despite sticking with the current program, many councillors re-iterated they were committed to an eventual move.

“I was always under the impression we were looking at this to try to save our residents because we believed, keeping it at weekly moving forward, the costs were going to go up. I’m very reluctant to make this decision to keep it the way it is, because I think we need to be environmentally responsible,” said Coun. Michelle Gruhlke. “When we look at the region around us, everyone is moving to bi-weekly, and its about being responsible. I think we need an option to look at both.”

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Maintaining weekly collection will not improve the 35-40 per cent diversion rate that sits well below the regional average, does not align with the City’s Environmental Sustainability Action Plain, and does not align with service collection schedules throughout the Tri-Region and Edmonton Metropolitan Region, a distinct goal of the Intermunicipal Collaboration Committee on Waste.

With no guarantee costs will see any change due to the reduction in service, the city is unwilling to pull the trigger on bringing waste collection service levels up to speed with the region. Stony Plain and Edmonton currently use a biweekly model.

“We don’t have a lot of time from now until the end of our contract to make the decision to go to bi-weekly pickup. This is going to carry us in the interim to where we need to get in order to make a decision on the subject,” said Coun. Wayne Rothe.

jothomas@postmedia.com

* Correction: An earlier version of this story said the City voted to end the Large Item Pickup Program. This is incorrect. They voted to keep the program.

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