When 'spoiled' Torontonians lost twice-a-week garbage pickup

The complaints were piling up as quickly as the garbage bags were.

To save money, city shifted to less frequent waste collection schedule in 1993

Less garbage pickup in Toronto

29 years ago
Duration 3:05
In the spring of 1993, changes to Toronto's garbage pickup services had upset some residents.

The complaints were piling up as quickly as the garbage bags were.

That's what the City of Toronto found out when it decided to pick up residents' trash half as often as it used to.

In the spring of 1993, the city began sending out garbage trucks only once per week to each house, as opposed to the two weekly rounds it had previously made.

Why? Because the city calculated it could save $3 million annually by making the switch to once-a-week garbage pickup.

'There's no service'

In 1993, this Toronto resident was frustrated that a city garbage worker would not pick up his yard waste on a day when that type of pickup was not scheduled. He threw it on the truck himself. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

Despite the cost savings, many residents believed the solution simply stank.

Like the cardigan-wearing man who became irate when a garbage worker would not take his yard waste because it was not the collection day for that kind of material.

The man, who threw his yard waste onto the garbage truck himself, told CBC that he blamed the management at city hall.

"They increase taxes every year and there's no service," the man said.

Hundreds of complaints

Paul Hunter reported that the City of Toronto had received hundreds of complaints within weeks of switching to a once-per-week garbage pickup schedule in 1993. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

Just six weeks into the new system, the city had already received hundreds of complaints, according to what the CBC's Paul Hunter reported on Prime Time News on May 13, 1993.

There seemed to be an initial period of confusion as to when garbage or recycling was to be put out at the curb, even though the city had distributed calendars to explain all changes to the residential pickup schedule.

Nick Vardin, the public works commissioner, believed some of the frustration stemmed from changes to yard-waste pickup.

"If the yard waste, for example — which has been the major problem — is not picked up the date that they're supposed to pick it up, [residents] phone and whine and complain and there's some truth to that," he told Prime Time News.

What did the workers think?

City workers had varying views on how the public was reacting to changes Toronto was making to its garbage pickup services in 1993. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

The people picking up the trash for the city had varying views on the problems being reported.

Some workers thought it would take time for residents to adjust to the new system, while others thought the complainers were not being reasonable. 

"The City of Toronto has been spoiled for years," said one city worker, who was asked to comment on the complaints residents had been making.

In 1993, Toronto was moving from a twice-per-week to a once-per-week garbage pickup system. (Prime Time News/CBC Archives)

As Hunter then pointed out to Prime Time News viewers, it wasn't as if Toronto was a pioneer in collecting residents' garbage just once a week.

"Vancouver's picked up its garbage that way for 25 years and it seems to work fine there," he said.

"If Toronto saves the money it expects to on this, grumbling taxpayers or not, the new schedule will likely be around for a while."

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?