All things considered, a City of Surrey spokesperson said, the new garbage collection system got off to a good start Monday, but it was not without some glitches.
Rob Costanzo, Surrey’s deputy operations manager in the engineering department, said about 1,200 out of 100,000 Surrey residences in the program had not received the new garbage carts from the city in time.
As well, some garbage pickup was late, and some residents were having trouble finding space for the carts.
None of that is unexpected and all of it can be sorted out, Costanzo told Peace Arch News Tuesday.
“We anticipated that we would have some bumps and grinds,” Costanzo said.
“We’re just asking for a little bit of patience.”
Costanzo said the launch actually went better than expected, with 90 per cent of Surrey residents putting out the proper combination of garbage carts on Monday.
“Once the dust settles, we firmly believe our customers will see this is just a fantastic model for waste collection.”
As part of preparing for the roll-out of the new service, Costanzo said the city required the contractor to have extra trucks in reserve to cover missed pick-ups.
That was good news for South Surrey resident Mike Kristensen, who said none of the six detached houses on his 19A Avenue cul-de-sac near 160 Street got picked up Monday, when the new garbage collection launched.
Kristensen said he kept getting busy signals when he phoned the city’s waste hotline to report the problem, and when he finally did get through, he reached a recorded message that advised people to call back later due to the volume of calls.
“I totally understand that it’s not easy to get up and running,” Kristensen said, “but the should have had a contingency plan.”
Late Tuesday, two trucks came by and emptied both bins at his house.
South Surrey resident Ralph Semple, who lives in a townhouse on 24 Avenue near the Highway 99 overpass, had a different problem.
He said his small garage simply doesn’t have enough room to store the three large-size bins dropped off by the city.
“It’s ridiculous,” Semple said.
It would have been nice, he said, if the city had made it clear that smaller bins were an option.
He intends to get the smaller waste carts, and in the meantime says he will have to leave the bigger ones outside, even though that violates city bylaws.
Costanzo said less than 10 per cent of Surrey residents have asked for smaller or larger bins to date.
The size of the bins assigned to a residence is based on two years of study, Costanzo said, but the city isn’t going to force anyone to take a particular size.
What the city is asking for, he said, is for people to try the bins for “two or three weeks” before they decide if they want something bigger or smaller.
As for problems finding storage space for carts, Costanza said that on request, the city will send someone out to have a look.
“We’ll go and see,” he said.
But it may take a while depending on how many requests come in, he added.
He projects it will take about a month to swat most of the bugs in the new system.
“It’ll get easier,” Costanzo said.
“Transition is tricky. It’s always tricky for a city this size.”
On a related matter, Costanzo noted some callers to the city have been asking which bin should be used for disposing of dog waste.
The correct answer, he said, is none of them. There has never been an approved method of dumping dog poo into the waste-collection system.
“That’s a myth,” Costanzo said.
“That ban is imposed by Metro Vancouver.”
The Metro Vancouver website says pet waste should be disposed by flushing them down a toilet or composting it in the back yard.
“Thousands of tonnes of pet waste goes to the landfill every year, often sealed in little plastic bags,” the website states.
“In the landfill, it decomposes and generates methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas, about 21 times more potent than carbon-dioxide, that contributes to global warming.”
In a Sept. 27 email to Costanzo, Esther Bérubé, a Metro Vancouver project engineer with the regional zero waste implementation initiative, said cat feces should not be flushed because they may contain parasites that could harm aquatic wildlife.
While technically banned from garbage, too, Bérubé said small amounts from a household with one to three cats, double-bagged, can be “tolerated.”
She also recommends against flushing cat litter, even the “flushable” variety, because it can clog the sewage system.
The change in the way Surrey trash is collected is part of Metro Vancouver’s regional waste strategy that aims to raise the recycling rate to 70 per cent by 2015.
More information is available at the city’s website, www.surrey.ca/rethinkwaste or by calling the waste collection hotline at 604-590-7289.