Nfld. & Labrador

Clear trash bags, lower limit among changes coming to St. John's garbage collection

The City of St. John's is revamping collection to extend the life of Robin Hood Bay.

Emphasis on recycling to extend the life of Robin Hood Bay

Big changes are coming to trash collection in St. John's. (CBC)

In the next 12 months trash collection in St. John's will see a number of changes as the city aims to keep the streets cleaner, get more people to recycle, and extend the life of the Robin Hood Bay landfill.

On Monday, city council approved amendments to its sanitation bylaws that will mean changes to the number of bags permitted per pickup, some collection schedules, and even the colour of the bags destined for the dump 

Coun. Sandy Hickman, council's lead on public works, said the city is tightening up collection to reduce the amount of garbage going into Robin Hood Bay.

"We've given people many years now to get used to moving into recycling and into the bins. It's now time all citizens get together to heighten and enhance our collection," he said.

"We have about 30 years left at Robin Hood Bay and if we can enhance that by more recycling and less waste going in, then that's a smart thing for us to do."

The first change to collection happens Feb. 1, when the pickup day for about 15,000 households will change. Hickman said the changes are being made because of expansion and geographic changes to routes. People can check the city's website or the St. John's Waste and Recycling app, or call 311, for updated schedules.

On March 1 the 10-bag limit for people without automated pickup — introduced for much of the city in 2018 — will be reduced to four, a limit that will apply to everyone.

"That is because, partly, we want to control the garbage litter, but we also want to encourage recycling," said Hickman.

Coun. Sandy Hickman says the city is looking to increase recycling, not hand out fines. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

What happens if someone tries to get an extra bag or two in after March 1? Hickman said the first step would be a warning: staff will leave a reminder of the limit change.

Repeat offenders could find themselves left holding the extra bags.

"The eventual punishment would be non collection," said Hickman. "The garbage will be left there. We can go to a fine but we're not looking at that unless something severe happens. Compliance is important."

Bins blocking sidewalks

While the the automatic pickup bins have been working well for the city, one community activist hopes the changes will remind the big bin users proper placement of them. 

 As he walked to work on Tuesday, Josh Smee kept track of how many bins were blocking the sidewalk. 

"I counted that I passed 118 houses on my way to work and out of them 38 has their bins on the sidewalk," he said. 

"That's a pretty significant amount."

Community activist Josh Smee likes the changes the city is making but hopes people will be more conscious of where they place their bins. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The large bins — 240-litre capacity — make it hard for some to get around, and that's without snow on the ground. 

"I can usually step around it, or step into the street or onto someone's lawn, but I can only imagine [how hard it would be] if you are getting around using some sort of mobility device," Smee said.

Hickman said it's important not to block walkways.

On a recent walk to work Smee noticed a lot of bins blocking the sidewalk. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"The rule is to not place him on sidewalks," he said. The bins go at the edge of driveways or, if there's not enough room there, right at the curb. 

Smee said the changes seem "pretty positive" to him.

"We are in a situation where people can recycle more and by and large the bylaw really clears things up and seems to be a big step forward."

Clear bags and mandatory recycling coming next year

The third, and arguably biggest, change will roll out Jan. 1, 2022.

Residents will be required to use clear garbage bags for their trash, allowing the city to make sure recyclables aren't heading to the landfill. The aim is to boost recycling, which will become mandatory on the same day. 

This change will apply to those with bins and those without. St. John's trucks are equipped with cameras that allow operators see what's being dumped in the back. Within the four-bag limit, one black bag will be allowed for privacy.

The rule changes will apply to those who have garbage bins and those who don't. (City of St. John's)

City staff will also be doing spot checks around the city, said Hickman.

"Fines would only be a last resort with someone who continues to be non-compliant."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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