Edmonton could be pulled into the future of garbage pickup, whether it likes it or not, as the city finds it harder and harder to find garbage trucks that aren't automated.

Every other major city in Canada has already moved to a system where automated arms pick up curbside garbage bins and dump their contents into the truck. In Edmonton, garbage collectors still hurl bags into the back of trucks. 

"It's not a matter of if we move to automated pickup, it's a matter of when we move to automated pickup," said utilities manager Chris Ward.

Ward said no decisions have been made about whether the city will move to an automated system. 

There are a number of important questions that need answering, like whether people will have to buy new bins and whether garbage will have to be sorted before going to the curb.

The use of special bins may also limit how much trash can be put to the curb at once.

"Fundamentally, it changes how everybody puts out their garbage," Ward said.

Here's how it works in Calgary

Edmonton has only 89 trucks in its fleet. The rest is supplied by contractors.

Right now, vehicles need to be specially ordered without the robotic arms and other modifications.

The trucks are lowered so bags can be more easily tossed in the back. Technology that usually sits on the undercarriage is then tucked behind the cab, increasing the length of the truck.

Trent Tompkins, director of waste collection services, said Edmonton isn't behind the times. The city just focused on processing garbage in an environmentally-friendly way first.

Automated Garbage

This chart shows how other cities are using automated garbage trucks. (City of Edmonton)

He said new trucks would be easier to maneuver around tight corners, and would give hard-working garbage collectors a break by eliminating the need to haul bags.

"Out there loading in the summer, loading 20 tonnes a day of material is hard," Tompkins said.

He said moving to automated trucks would also create a safer work environment for waste collectors. The robotic arms wouldn't necessarily cause layoffs because many trucks are already operated by just one person.

Ward said nothing has been decided but it will become more difficult to push back against automation as time goes on.

"Now, with some of that work being complete, or coming to completion, we can start looking forward," he said.

Coun. Ben Henderson said he has been asking about automated trucks for a long time. He said people in other cities seem to be happy with the system. 

The city plans to start studying the possibility this year, and present a report to council on pros, cons and the cost in 2018.