Waste collection in Hamilton is back on schedule after COVID-19 concerns

Waste collection has restarted in Hamilton after a one-day delay over concerns about COVID-19, and people should put out their garbage and recycling on their regular collection day.

2 social organizations are also calling on the city to use hotel rooms for homeless residents

Waste collection has resumed in the City of Hamilton after COVID-19 concerns. (Rick Hughes/CBC)

Waste collection has restarted in Hamilton after a one-day delay over concerns about COVID-19, and people should put out their garbage and recycling on their regular collection day.

Meanwhile, two organizations have called on the city to open more resting centres, and to use hotels as shelter space, for people experiencing homelessness.

A dispute on Monday over pandemic protection led to a one-day work stoppage from about 50 unionized city garbage collectors. Paul Johnson, director of the city's emergency operations centre, said Tuesday afternoon that it had been resolved.

"We're trying to catch up," Johnson said during a regular city hall briefing about COVID-19. People should put out their garbage and recycling on the usual day, he said, and if it doesn't get collected, put it out the following day. 

City-employed waste collectors, who are represented by CUPE 5167, refused to leave the yard Monday over COVID-19 concerns.

The workers didn't have any way to clean their hands or distance from each other or the public, said Barry Conway, vice-president of the outside workers unit. 

Employees at GFL, which does recycling and some garbage collection, recently resolved similar concerns with their employer.

Johnson said the city has temporarily stopped collecting leaf and yard waste, but is still collecting garbage and green and blue bin waste.

He said people should do the following:

  • Put used tissues and napkins in the garbage, not the green bin.
  • Use liner bags (paper or certified compostable plastic) in the green bin.
  • Make sure all material placed in garbage bins is bagged, not kept loose.
  • Keep a physical distance of at least two metres from waste collection staff.

The city has also stopped taking payments at its surface parking lots, excluding the Yorkdale parkade and the convention centre.

It's also closed Albion Falls and the parking lots around it, he said, and people should stay off the escarpment stairs. 

"We are noticing that people are gathering in certain areas of our community in too-large numbers," he said. "There are quite frankly too many people in too close a quarters."

"This is a very serious situation. This is a serious illness."

Hotel rooms for the homeless

Keeping Six Hamilton Harm Reduction Action League and the Hamilton Social Medicine Response Team (Hamsmart) say widespread closures of spaces like businesses and libraries has left street-involved people with nowhere to rest, keep two metres from others, and wash their hands.

The organizations want the city to "immediately procure" hotel rooms and open large public spaces for people to eat, rest and clean up. They also want people who are homeless and/or use drugs to have a say in city pandemic-related decisions that impact them.

"This cannot wait any longer," the organizations said. "If conditions for people to spread out are not created now, we fear that COVID-19 will spread like wildfire in the homeless population."

Johnson said the city already has people in hotel rooms, and there are about 50 available if needed. The city is giving money to organizations like Good Shepherd and the Living Rock to extend their drop-in hours, he said. 

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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