Garbage carts plan hits roadblock

A plan to bring rolling trash carts to some Winnipeg homes has hit a bump in the road.

A pilot project to bring wheeled trash carts to some Winnipeg homes has hit a bump in the road.

City hall's committee on infrastructure renewal and public works held a special meeting Friday to discuss outfitting more than 42,000 homes in the city's northwest quadrant with carts that would be rolled to the front curb or lane on garbage pickup days.

It would cost the city $2 million to outfit the homes with one cart each, but they are expected to save money in the long run because they make trash pickup easier.

The plan, based on a report from the city's administration, also called for a contract worth more than $13 million to be awarded to waste-management company BFI. The contract would be in place until 2017.

Committee members discussing the matter, however, hit an impasse with a 2-2 tie vote.

The plan will now go to the executive policy committee, also known as the mayor's cabinet, for further discussion next week.

If the cabinet supports it, the matter will be forwarded to city council for a vote.

It has already created controversy with some councillors, however. Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who represents Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry, said Thursday it would be anti-competitive to award the contract to BFI. The Toronto-based company currently holds five of seven residential garbage contracts in the city.

Coun. Dan Vandal, one of two committee members who opposed the plan, echoed Gerbasi's criticism.

"I don't think that creating monopolies for one big multinational corporation is good waste management practice going forward for our city," he said Friday.

Coun. Harvey Smith, another member of the committee, also opposed the plan.

Darryl Drohomerski, the city's manager of solid waste services, said concerns about BFI's alleged monopoly are unfounded. He said a lot of companies bid on the contract but BFI's was the lowest.

High-tech carts

The carts would be the highest-tech trash containers Winnipeg has ever seen, Drohomerski said.

They would contain a radio frequency tag linked to a database telling the city where each cart belongs, should one be lost.

Drohomerski said the tags are similar to ones used by retailer Wal-Mart to track merchandise.

The tags "actually look like about the size of a piece of chewing gum. Most of them have a little piece of circuitry on it," he said. "There's a piece of equipment that can scan that and then record it back through a database."

If the project is approved and works well in northwest Winnipeg, it will likely be extended to other parts of the city in the future, Drohomerski said.