Bumpy start for private hauler

[attach]6336[/attach]The first days of private garbage collection were off to a rough start in Bloor West and other neighbourhoods west of Yonge Street as new provider Green For Life struggled with delays and uncompleted routes.

Toronto’s 311 hotline received just over 1,000 calls relating to service requests, incomplete collections and missed collections during the first four days of service.

Parkdale-High Park councillor Sarah Doucette, who had voted against privatized collection, said she expected things would run smoother during the first week.

“Yes, you expect hiccups … [they’re] brand-new going out there, but I just feel they didn’t have enough trucks and they didn’t have enough people,” she said.

An aide in her office said in total they received about 15 calls and emails about problems in the first week, including a complaint about a green bin being left upside down, leaving residue on the sidewalk.

In her ward, waste collection is conducted on Wednesdays. A portion of the Junction, however, had to adjust to a new Friday collection day.

Doucette did note that things went well on her own street, with no problems of her own to report.

“I hope that it will continue.”

Green For Life increased trucks from 80 to 95 after crews missed the 6 p.m. deadline on their second day of pick-up.

Persistent problems that first week also prompted Jim Harnum, general manager of solid waste management to issue a statement apologizing to residents for the inconvenience during a transition period. He requested residents leave material out until it has been picked up.

In an interview eight days after the launch, Green For Life CEO Patrick Dovigi downplayed the delays, chalking them up to growing pains.

“The first week went as we expected with any normal start-up,” he said, adding crews were adjusting to new routes and situations.

The following Tuesday after the launch “we got them considerably earlier than the week prior,” Dovigi said, adding everything was off the street by 7:30 p.m. with the exception of a bit of yard waste.

Public works chair Denzil Minnan-Wong said things were running better in Week 2 of collection. Still, he wasn’t expecting the widespread reports of pickups late into the night or spilling over into another day.

“We thought there would be some growing pains,” he said. “In terms of the magnitude, I was a little surprised.”

The councillor said he recognizes the need for a period of adjustment.

He didn’t rule out taking action by imposing fines on Green For Life for late pickup, as stipulated in their contract.

“We hope that we won’t have to do that, but come the beginning of September, if the performance hasn’t improved significantly from the first week, we’ll have to decide what we want to do.”

He said ultimately, the city’s obligation is to ratepayers.

“The patience of residents of District 2 is not infinite and in some point in time, excuses don’t milk the cows,” he said.
Doucette said her constituents have been mostly understanding during the change-over.

“Residents have basically been very good,” she said.