By ROY WOOD
In contrast to Oliver and Penticton, the town of Osoyoos has rejected a proposal to modernize and automate its garbage and recycling collection, opting to stick with the manual system.
Despite a recommendation from town staff to switch to the so-called “cart system,” Mayor Sue McKortoff and Councillor Jim King voted to stay with current methods. Councillor CJ Rhodes was the only council member who agreed with the administration’s point of view.
Two councillors missed the vote: Mike Campol is on vacation; and Carol Youngberg was absent due to a death in the family. McKortoff said it is “unfortunate” that the contentious issue had to be decided by just three of five council members.
The vote on which system to employ was part of the discussion around next year’s renewal of a seven-year contract for solid waste collection with Waste Collections Canada (WCC, formerly BFI). The joint contract also includes Penticton, Oliver, Keremeos, Summerland and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
In a cart system, residents are issued separate wheeled carts for garbage, recycling and yard waste. The contents are collected by automated trucks. Currently, drivers lift material into the trucks by hand.
In his report to council, operations director Jim Dinwoodie said: “The trend in (the) industry is toward the automated cart curbside collection since it provides quicker pickup and fewer work safety issues.”
Dinwoodie conceded, “The recommendation to go to a cart program is not without controversy and varying opinion.”
He pointed out that a cart system would align Osoyoos with “contemporary waste management systems,” which provide better monitoring of the garbage, recycling and yard waste being collected.
The automated trucks employ cameras that allow drivers to see what is dumped. The carts have computer chips that identify the address from which the material is collected.
Dinwoodie added: “Penticton experienced some initial negative feedback from residents, but overall the system is receiving positive reviews.”
McKortoff outlined her reasons for rejecting the carts, including “large carts on small properties” and retired people struggling with “dragging the carts down the driveway.”
As well, she said, the large garbage containers may encourage people to put more material out as garbage than they might when they are allowed just one plastic bag.
The mayor also pointed out that switching to a cart for yard waste would impose a new restriction on volume to one cart-full rather than the current unlimited number of bags.
King referred succinctly to the current manual system: “If it’s not broken, why change it?” He added that he attended an open house in the spring at which some 25 residents discussed a cart system and “no one was in favour.”
Rhodes echoed many of the points in the staff report and added that companies in the waste collection business are having an increasingly difficult time recruiting employees because of the heavy lifting that a cart system would eliminate.
Rhodes also pointed to what he sees as a council’s responsibility to “have a vision for the future. … We have an opportunity to be visionary.”
Oliver council, in a hotly debated decision last week, voted 3-to-2 in favour of a cart system. Penticton already uses carts. Osoyoos joins Keremeos and the regional district in rejecting the switch.