Garbage: big increases in litter, illegal dumping force clean-up crews into overdrive

GarbageNo, you’re not imagining things: there is more garbage on city streets and city work crews are struggling to clean it up, despite dramatic increases in pick-up, sweeping and garbage cans.

City work crews are making progress, but have been nearly overwhelmed, say city staff, by a 30 percent increase 311 calls related to litter, rubbish and illegal dumping in 2015 and a further 15 percent increase in the first quarter of this year. (The details are in this report to council May 18.)

Complaints to council about litter and garbage are routine, one reason why an additional $2 million was added to this year’s budget to help control the problem.

But the new investments are showing results, says Albert Shamess, director of waste management and resource recovery.

Response times to clean up illegal garbage has been reduced from 10 days to three, thanks to pickup schedules that are seven days a week in the downtown core and five days a week elsewhere.

Other improvements:

  • street sweeping increased to 250 hours a week from 150;
  • flushing has been increased to seven days a week from five;
  • litter collection crews have increased to five from three, with a focus on the Downtown Eastside, bus stops and other hot spots; and
  • hours allocated to emptying litter cans have been doubled to 140 hours a week from 70.

In addition, the city is cracking down on violators with new enforcement at hot spots and with regular violators of commercial container rules.

The tonnage of material collected by street crews rose 15 percent  in the first quarter of the year.

Why the increases in litter. Shamess points to a range of factors, including illegal dumping from demolition and development; poor container management, particularly downtown; and the difficulties of disposing of large items in built-up neighbourhoods.