If everything goes as expected, residents won’t even notice the city’s switch to private curbside garbage collection, says Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.
Speaking in Wilson Heights at the launch of the city’s new privatized waste collection — underway this week for 165,000 homes west of Yonge Street — the chair of the public works committee said today the city is trying to ensure a smooth transition with little change to collection as Green For Life Environmental takes over a job previously held by city employees.
The provider was awarded the seven-year city contract for waste collection in neighbourhoods between Yonge Street and the Humber River after city council approved privatization in 2011.
While garbage pick-up schedules won’t change, residents within the catchment are being asked to put their bins out by 7 a.m. on their scheduled day, as their actual time of collection may vary.
Under the deal, Green For Life must collect all waste by 5 p.m.
On Aug. 7, the first day of the rollout, homeowners near Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue W. reported an earlier-than-normal recycling pick-up, though the trucks returned several hours later for green bin contents.
It was a different story a few blocks south in Wilson Heights, where Carolyna Gomes’ topped-up recycling and green bins had yet to be emptied at 11 a.m. — not that she even noticed until it was pointed out to her by the Town Crier.
Gomes says she’s pleased overall with garbage pick-up in her neighbourhood, and hopes Green For Life performs.
“I expect the same, [the city employees] have been doing a good job,” she said.
Minnan-Wong is asking residents for a grace period as Green For Life adjusts to new routes and new neighbourhoods.
“Whenever a new company comes in on a scale such as this there has to be a little bit of understanding, a little bit of forgiveness because they are adopting new routes and there are new challenges.”
Not everyone was as forgiving as Gomes.
At 9 a.m., NDP MP Olivia Chow, who lives in Trinity-Spadina with her mother tweeted: “My mother is in an extra bad mood today. The garbage hasn’t been picked up yet — the wonder of privatization.”
At the launch, Minnan-Wong shrugged off Chow’s tweet, but asked that residents experiencing any problems with trash pick-up report it to 311.
“If there are legitimate calls with legitimate problems we are going to take action,” he said.
Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416, the union representing city garbage collectors, also set up a hotline and is encouraging customers to call them if they are having problems with collection.
According to the union, switching to private operators in other jurisdictions has by and large had a negative impact on quality of service. As a result of outsourcing, 220 unionized city employees have been redeployed to other city departments, and 80 temporary workers laid off.
Green For Life head Patrick Dovigi says their record in other cities in the GTA will quiet the critics.
“We’re going to prove everybody wrong, and prove that the city has done the right thing, as [have] other municipalities across Canada.”
Toronto is not unfamiliar territory to Green For Life, as they already provide collection west of the Humber River in Etobicoke.
Mayor Rob Ford, who did not attend the press conference, issued a statement heralding private waste collection: “Today is a great day for the City of Toronto. Acting on my campaign promise to contract out appropriate services and to save the city money, I am pleased to welcome [Green For Life] as the waste collection provider in this area of the city.”
The privatization of garbage collection was a campaign promise from Ford during the 2010 municipal election, which took place less than 18 months after Toronto experienced a 39-day outside workers strike.
With no curbside waste collection, local parking lots and parks became dumping grounds for giant mounds of garbage.
With the Green For Life contract, the city projects estimated savings of $11.9 million in the first year of service, followed by $11.1 million annually after July 2013.
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