Toronto’s trash controversy: the trash haulers


A new report from the Toronto Public Library suggests that it would have saved public money and time to contract out trash collection, which has been the city’s exclusive responsibility since 1953. The Library Commission had recommended in its recent report that the city look into outsourcing garbage pickup to increase efficiency, and save money. The report also proposed the city introduce a public-private partnership for garbage collection.

In fact, Mayor John Tory has said that changing the city’s garbage collection system to private haulers would have saved Toronto taxpayers billions of dollars annually.

But now, the report has gotten its own share of backlash from those who said private trash haulers make the city’s garbage system more expensive.

“I’m very concerned about putting a lot of the burden on the private sector and those institutions with a really steep learning curve,” said Councillor Jaye Robinson, who represents part of the west side of Toronto and is one of the city’s longest-serving politicians.

After researching the private-sector garbage service in other cities, Ms. Robinson said the report fails to tell the whole story.

“This conversation seems to be about one person making a decision to privatize and say, ‘we don’t know how this is going to impact you,’” she said. “For far too long, we’ve spent 20 years allowing privatization discussions to spin on in whispers and have the city have to prepare contingency plans and back-up plans. So now all of a sudden we’re at this session talking about how much money might be saved and how often there might be more accidents.”

According to the report, which does not cite a source for any of its figures, privatization would have increased collection coverage to 33 per cent of city residents, almost double the current rate. Now, 32 per cent of the city’s residents are serviced by the city.

Private garbage companies would have put garbage collection services out to tender. City workers would have been made staff responsible for the collection, at a time when nearly 1,000 staff are being laid off. The report also recommended that garbage trucks be pulled apart and moved on city property to avoid any accidents or injuries for city employees.

The final tab on a contract with private trash companies would have been up to $3-billion, the Library Commission said. Under a public-private partnership, 30 per cent of the profit would go to the private company and the rest would go to the city. According to Ms. Robinson, the Library Commission thinks the majority of money would have gone to private waste collectors.

City Council is due to meet on the report.

The Toronto Public Library’s assessment of the city’s waste management system. Image courtesy of the Library Commission.

This article has been updated to remove Mr. Trudeau’s comments.

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