Solid waste removal disruption
With a population of nearly 2 million people, the
City of Toronto experienced a disruption in residential
garbage and recyclable collection for 39 days this
summer as part of a municipal worker strike.
To learn more about how Toronto dealt with the
disruption, American Recycler interviewed Geoff
Rathbone, the city’s general manager of solid waste.
Municipal solid waste collection was disrupted
for several weeks. Knowing that a strike was
looming, did Toronto have a plan to deal with
the situation in the event of strike and how
important is it for cities to develop such plans?
Rathbone: Service was disrupted
for 39 days. Yes, we developed a plan many months
in advance of the strike as permits and other items
which required long lead times had to be dealt
with in advance.
Residents were asked to bring their trash to central
points such as parks and other municipal sites.
Looking back, was this the only option and how
long did it take for the city to set up the collection
centers and for citizens to get used to the idea
of transporting trash in their personal vehicles?
Rathbone: Based on our situation
the temporary drop off sites met the needs of our
citizens. We urged residents to store waste at
home, but if necessary, to bring it in to one of
the sites. Based on our criteria, which was to
use only management staff to operate the sites,
the storage concept was the only option.
How much trash was collected in these temporary
sites and what steps were taken in terms of vector
control? Was some of that trash collected and
sent to landfills during the strike?
Rathbone: About 20,000 tons were collected and
stored at our 26 temporary sites and our 7 transfer
station drop off points. All waste stayed on site
for the duration of the strike.
All sites were sprayed daily for pest control and
had rodent bait stations.
What technologies were employed to minimize the
odor from the trash collection points? Were there
some that were more effective?
Rathbone: We requested that all
waste be double bagged. All sites were sprayed
daily with odor control by a professional pest/odor
Once the strike ended, how long did it take to
remove the trash that was deposited at the collection
Rathbone: All waste was removed
within 2.5 days of the strike ending. Final site
remediation took an extra few days.
How did the strike affect the collection of recyclables?
Is there any evidence that more recyclables were
set aside because of the strike?
Rathbone: Residents were asked
to store recyclables at home. Our first collection
of recyclables after the strike collected about
twice the normal amount. However, it is likely
some recycling was lost with the waste brought
to the sites – we will not know this final number
for some time.
While nobody appreciates a disruption in solid
waste collection, was there a silver lining in
terms of citizens learning more about the contents
of what goes into a garbage bag and a desire
to divert even more recyclables?
Rathbone: Yes. We did hear from
some residents that it woke them up to the sheer
volume of waste we produce as a society and their
contribution. It also made people realize how much
material we normally can divert through the recycle
and Green Bin programs – both of which were suspended
during the strike.