Emterra seeks $67M in damages from Winnipeg over garbage and recycling collection

Waste-collection company Emterrra Environmental is suing the City of Winnipeg for $67 million, claiming the Manitoba capital breached its contract with its former garbage and recycling contractor.

Former waste-collection contractor alleges breaches of contract, including incomplete household info

Former Winnipeg garbage and recycling contractor Emterra alleges the city provided the firm with faulty information about where it needed to collect waste, among other alleged breaches of contract. (CBC)

Waste-collection company Emterrra Environmental is suing the City of Winnipeg for $67 million, claiming the Manitoba capital breached its contract with its former garbage and recycling contractor.

In a statement of claim filed with the Court of Queen's Bench, Emterra alleges the city failed to provide complete geographic data about households requiring garbage and recycling services, purchased inferior carts, changed the scope of its contract without informing the company and slapped the company with penalties without due process.

"The defendant has treated the plaintiff in a high-handed, unethical and dishonest manner," reads the claim filed by lawyer Robert Tapper.

"It has blamed the plaintiff for its own errors and mistakes and its steadfast refusal to come to terms with its own errors that was to its knowledge, which is both embarrassing and massively expensive for the plaintiff."

In its statement of complaint, Emterra said it had 17 weeks to prepare to collect garbage, recycling, bulky waste or yard waste at approximately 200,000 locations. The firm claims the city provided inaccurate maps with numerous errors that included properties that were not connected electronically to any carts at all, carts unattached to the correct addresses and carts connected to the wrong addresses.

Emterra claims the city provided more than 66,000 errors in total, resulting in faulty information for 18 per cent of the carts in the company's inventory. Costs related to the errors amounted to $12.1 million, the firm stated in the claim.

Emterra also claimed the city did not test its carts to withstand temperature extremes, failed to ensure every household received a garbage and recycling cart and did not keep track of the carts, electronically.

"It was one thing after another, after another," Tapper told reporters at his downtown Winnipeg office Monday afternoon, stating Emterra tried to work with the city to rectify the problems.

It was a disaster. And they kept persevering through it in the hopes it would get better. Which it did not.-  Robert Tapper

"Emterra would say, 'You've got this dirty data problem.' They would say, 'It's your problem.'"

The claims have not been proven in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

City of Winnipeg communications director Felicia Wiltshire said the city will not comment.

Emterra served as one of Winnipeg's waste-collection contractors from Aug. 1, 2012, to Sept. 30, 2017. The start of its contract coincided with the rollout of new garbage carts.

Complaints about its service led former Winnipeg mayor Sam Katz and several members of council to publicly complain about the company. Emterra representatives declined to comment publicly on most occasions, citing the firm's obligation to their client.

Tapper said his client could not comment.

"It was a disaster. And they kept persevering through it in the hopes it would get better. Which it did not," he said.

Emterra alleges in its statement of claim that the city "acted in bad faith in its negative communications with the media and the public" and "actively solicited negative comments from the public" in order to levy performance penalties.

The city is now served primarily by two other firms, GFL Environmental and Miller Waste Systems.


Bartley Kives

Senior reporter, CBC Manitoba

Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba.