City staff asked to look at more winter garbage collection in parks

Ward 12 Coun. Elizabeth Peloza is trying to increase garbage collection at city parks during the winter.

The city reduces the number of garbage cans it picks up by more than half in the winter months

Garbage cans that are easily accessible most of the year, aren't easy to dump when there's snow on the ground. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

If you have garbage you want to get rid of while walking through one of the city's parks — say, a bag of dog poop — there are fewer garbage cans available for dumping that waste during the winter months.  

And one city councillor, Ward 12's Elizabeth Peloza, is trying to change that.

From the start of May to mid-October, the city of London maintains 470 parks and 650 garbage cans at a cost of $200,000. It costs another $42,000 to increase the service for community events, like movie nights. 

During the winter months, the city maintains 260 garbage cans at 143 parks that are easily accessible by city vehicles. Cans are emptied by park staff twice a week in the summer, and once a week in the winter.

A staff report, which looked at the cost of resuming year-round garbage collection, was discussed at Tuesday's community and protective services committee meeting.

Matching the summer and winter levels of service would result in a "substantial" increase to the budget, the report says, because the city would need to hire more staff and do more snow clearing to make garbage cans accessible.

This is an underground garbage container, which can be found at the city's four dog parks. City staff are looking into which garbage cans they can maintain during the winter months, at a low cost. (Hala Ghonaim/CBC)

"The methods are very rudimentary. It's pick-up trucks with staff that physically lift the 45 gallon drums or lesser type of container. It's not an automated system. It's a hand driven system," said Scott Stafford, the head of the city's parks and recreation department.

The report says most park pathways are not plowed. The 61 pathways that are plowed, because of access to schools or key streets, run the city $36,000 each time it snows.

The city also maintains four dog parks, with underground garbage systems that need fewer visits and special equipment, year round. These systems cost the city $4,500 per month.

City staff have been directed to list the 143 parks that have garbage removal in the winter months and outline which parks and trail systems could be "easily accommodated" by roadside pick-up, with "low cost and incremental gains."  

The recommendation, moved by Peloza, passed unanimously at the committee level, but not without a language clarification.

"If [the parks] were easily serviced, we'd be doing it now," Stafford pointed out. "Easily is a bit of a strong word."

Staff say they'll report back at a future committee meeting in time for a decision to be made ahead of the multi-year budget.