City of Calgary kicks off privatized garbage collection pilot project

Some Calgarians might notice a different truck picking up their black bins starting this week as part of a new pilot project from the city.

Starting Tuesday, a private company will handle residential black bin garbage collection for 41 neighbourhoods across much of the city’s northwest and some of the southwest.

The list of 41 neighbourhoods in which the City of Calgary is piloting privatized black bin garbage collection. Global News

GFL Environmental won the seven-year contract to undertake the garbage collection services, and said residents won’t notice much of a difference in service.

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“Instead of a white truck collecting, you’re now going to see a bright green neon truck collecting your waste bins,” said GFL southern Alberta operations manager Brent Jespersen.

Read more: Dozens of communities to be included in privatized Calgary black bin collection pilot

The City of Calgary will continue to collect blue and green bins from the piloted neighbourhoods.

According to city officials, there won’t be any changes to pick-up schedules or the billing process.

“We’re going to keep the same level of service the city provided, while using our compressed natural gas vehicles to reduce the carbon footprint for the City of Calgary,” Jespersen said.

The pilot project was approved by the previous city council in 2019, in an effort to contract out up to 25 per cent of residential black cart collection services.

At the time, council said the city could save at least $1 million per year by contracting out some of the city’s waste and recycling programs.

“Most large municipalities in Canada have what is known as a mixed services delivery model where they have a mix of private and public collection service providers,” said City of Calgary waste and recycling services project manager Elias Tomaras.

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“There’s still some that have entirely private service providers and very few that still have public service providers.”

City officials said the purpose of the pilot project is to evaluate private sector service compared with the public sector.

Read more: Calgary city council to look at privatizing services to save on tax bills

According to Tomaras, the city will have “a variety of performance indicators” that it will be monitoring over the seven-year pilot program.

“Some of the primary performance indicators will be price per household, as well as other customer service measures like citizens satisfaction for the black cart service,” Tomaras said.

CUPE Local 37, the union that represents more than 2,600 outdoor city workers, called the decision “unfortunate” and said city council “ignored” the advice of the union as well as the acting director of waste and recycling services at the time.

“The savings alluded to by city administration could have easily been achieved in-house,” union president Matthew Sjogren said in a statement to Global News.

“Council at the time made an ideological decision to contract out a service that was working well for Calgarians.”

Sjogren added that feedback from citizens revealed “there was no problem” with the service being delivered, and that the union was working with administration to identify potential cost savings.

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“This was an extremely disappointing decision made by a council who was more interested in contracting out than working with us,” he said.

City officials said administration will monitor the costs of service and report back to city council yearly during the pilot program.

With files from Sarah Offin, Global News

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