80 pounds of Not Garbage???

Ron Bolin: August 4, 2017

Those who have paid attention to the City of Nanaimo’s announcements are aware that the City is introducing a new solid waste collection program which is very similar to the existing one in its schedule, but is very different in its devices and it costs. The program is called “Sort Toss  Roll”, and if you haven’t yet paid attention go to:


and read all about it.  It is apparently coming soon to your neighbourhood in Central Nanaimo and to North and South Nanaimo next year.

The crux of the change is that instead of using plastic bags weighing ounces for your garbage and recycling, and a small bin for your organic waste, we will be using three large and robust plastic bins weighing a total of 36 kg (nearly 80 lbs.) and large enough to hold your teenage children…  Visit the site shown in the above City web page for locations where the bins can currently be seen and take a look.

Nanaimo’s Collection Services have been presented by the City in the following:


An examination of this document allows one to determine that in 2013 Nanaimo had 26,000 homes subject to this City service and 10,600 tons of waste was collected.  This leads to an estimate of .41 tons (about 820 lbs) of waste collected each year from each household – or about 15.8 lbs/week per household served.  This implies that the average household will be moving about 95.8 lbs of waste per week from their door to the curb and 80 lbs. back, i.e. 15.8 lbs of waste plus 80 lbs of containers.

If all of Nanaimo were flat, and if all of Nanaimo had curbs, and if parking on the street were not permitted, given the wheels on the bins, this might be a manageable, if expensive, proposition. (We are on the hook for capital expenditures of around $7.5 million dollars for all new trucks (apparently now purchased) and all new bins (apparently still under investigation). I don’t believe that the extra bags for garbage ($3) or for recycling (free) which one can now use will be available in any form under the new waste regime, and perhaps given the new large bin sizes they won’t be needed.

But much of Nanaimo is not level, much of Nanaimo is not served with sidewalks or curbs, and parking is free on most of our streets….  In addition, Nanaimo’s demographic is rapidly aging.  So how have these conditions been factored in to this new program and when was it presented at a public meeting of Council for discussion, presentations from delegations, and for adoption in an open meeting?

Another name for this project is the Automated Residential Waste Collection System… And on the City end it is automated…  All of our 8 new trucks are fitted out with a mechanical arm which can, under the guidance of the driver, reach out, pick up the bins as required and dump them into the appropriate hopper on the truck.  No human touch required. This explains the need for large, robust and heavy duty bins as the machine arms are neither as facile nor as deliberate as are those of a human. It is proposed that this will increase the job satisfaction of City workers and reduce workplace strains which can save some money in WorksafeBC expenses.

But the project involves no automation on the resident end and in fact makes new demands of householders who must -at least if they live in homes which are located above or below the street grade and/or live along narrow roads with no curbs or sidewalks and/or have many who park along their street and/or all or several of these conditions- struggle to meet the demands of this technology and the 2 way 80 lbs per waste cycle which it imposes.  For these citizens and for those who may be further encumbered by age or disability this will not improve the utility of the waste collection system, despite its increased costs.  Quite the contrary.  I anticipate that the overall system costs of waste removal will rise significantly as injuries migrate from city workers to the public at large as they struggle to get their heavy bins on wheels up and down driveways from sloped to steep, particularly in inclement weather where the surface can be slick with water, snow or ice.  I also believe that the addition of some 80 lbs per cycle to the mandated waste collection program could lead to the City incurring liability for accidents that may arise from this change…

And speaking of costs, see the document prepared by the City which discusses the costs of the new program.


This document shows that as of Jan 1 of this year, the rate for solid waste collection per household was $102.75.  As of July 1 of this year the rate rose to $118.04. In 2018 the rate will rise to $169.00!!! In 2019 it will go to $131.00 and is expected to stay there for a number of years… No matter how you slice it, this is an inordinate percentage increase for the service of waste collection.  Watch your City utility bills.

How did this program with its $7.5 million dollar budget get this far on nothing more than a couple of Staff presentations and an In-Camera meeting while consistently refraining from bringing it to an open meeting of Council? That the people most affected by this change should not have been allowed to speak to it as a delegation in an open meeting (my request to be a delegation when the matter came to an open meeting was repeatedly postponed and has never happened). Meanwhile why the CUPE union representative was allowed to act as a delegate on the subject at the March 27 In-Camera meeting where funding for the program was apparently passed is a mystery about which the City has thus far not informed me.

The In-Camera minutes which were released at the end of last week:


see pp 219 ff for the motion, delegation list, and vote.

See pp 161ff if you wish to read the full report.

The relevant motions and the vote are as follows:

“06517 It was moved and seconded that Council consider the Automated Solid Waste Collection Report prior to considering motion to do with the Nanaimo Port Authority presentation. The motion carried.

  1. Lindsay vacated the Boardroom at 9:12 p.m.
  2. Gurrie entered the Boardroom at 9:12 p.m.

(b) Automated Solid Waste Collection Delegation: 1. Blaine Gurrie, CUPE Local 401 President, spoke regarding Automated Solid Waste Collection. 06617

It was moved and seconded that Council receive the delegation from Blaine Gurrie, CUPE Local 401 President, regarding Automated Solid Waste Collection. The motion carried unanimously.

  1. Gurrie vacated the Boardroom at 9:14 p.m.
  2. Gurrie vacated the Boardroom at 9:20 p.m.

06717 It was moved and seconded that Council selects option A, plus the inclusion of yard waste, and approves implementation of in-house automated solid waste collection services for the City in 2017 as follows: Option A: A City-owned and operated service with weekly collection of organics and bi-weekly collection of garbage and recycling utilizing an automated fleet of 8 trucks. The City owns and operates all assets associated with the service. Capital Investment: $7.4 million Initial User rate (year one): $146 User rate-post implementation: $80 Yard waste: There is an option to include yard waste with this service option. Initial user rate increases to $169 and post implementation rate decreases to $100. There is no increase to capital cost. The motion carried. Opposed: Councillors Fuller, Hong and Kipp”

With regard to the vote, Councillors Pratt and Thorpe were both missing from the meeting.  This means that the motion was passed 4 to 3 by Mayor McKay and Councillors Brennan, Bestwick and Yoachim. Due to their absence, either Councillor Pratt or Thorpe could have demanded a repeat vote on the issue if they so desired… They apparently did not.

And so we find ourselves waiting to bear the added expense and the added problems which this “solution” gives rise to while we wait to hear how this $7.5 million dollar project has been able to proceed without the benefit of public discussion, let alone public agreement.

If you haven’t already done so, take a look at the bins, take a look at the environment in which you will be expected to shuffle them to the street and back, and let us all know how you feel about this program and the way in which it has been brought about….

I very much look forward to hearing your thoughts on this $7.5 million dollar project and how you see it assisting in your un-automated end of the waste collection process…    Ron