Optimizing safety, throughput, participation, user/staff satisfaction and reducing costs are part of operating an efficient depot.

Hours of operation

Depot operating hours must accommodate user availability and seasonal demand fluctuations. Operating hours will be impacted by services offered and traffic volumes.

Not only will the hours of operation depend on the location, services and popularity of the depot but they must accommodate the different needs of the depot users, including permanent and seasonal residents, businesses and hauling contractors. Peak times for traffic typically fall on evenings and weekends. Many smaller communities will offer shorter hours of operation or close selected depots during the winter months to reduce operating costs.

Some municipalities also close their depots on low traffic days and/or reduce the number of days in lower use seasons to realize cost efficiencies. Closed days can be used to maintain the site, move materials/bins and load materials for highway hauling.

Consulting with residents on preferred hours of operation, automated traffic counts etc. are recommended to avoid conflicts and to ensure that the depot hours are meeting users’ needs.


Complexity, services offered and traffic volumes all affect staffing requirements. Staff can help resolve contamination, vandalism and theft issues, keep the site clean, ensure safe operations and traffic flow. Providing appropriate training and safety equipment is key.

The decision whether to staff a depot will be influenced by the type of services offered, user participation/co-operation and traffic volumes. Depots located in remote areas with minimal services may not require staff to oversee daily operations, however, this is more the exception than the rule. Staff play an important role by maintaining the site, resolving contamination issues, educating users and ensuring safe operations/traffic flow.

Unattended depots can result in users treating them as dumping grounds and creating unsightly, hazardous messes. The municipality must assign extra resources and staff time to clean up the mess. Often the clean-up expenditures are outside the approved operating budget.

Smaller sites, with limited programs and traffic, may function with one trained staff to manage operations, especially if all material transfer is contracted out. As the size of operations increase, typically a greater number of staff is required. For example, sites that have permanent MHSW depots are required to have dedicated trained staff to receive and handle the MHSW. Sites experiencing peak traffic volumes will need extra staff to oversee traffic movement and queuing and to monitor traffic flow within the depot.

Providing adequate staffing ensures safe and efficient operations and helps to reduce material contamination. Most communities that have used trained staff to monitor waste diversion areas demonstrate positive results.

Many communities vary the number of staff depending on traffic volumes. Weekends and holidays tend to require more staff than weekdays. Full and part time staff along with well-planned operating hours can help control operating costs. Providing adequate staff can also help maintain the site and keep it clean. When a depot appears well maintained and litter free, users are more inclined to participate in diversion programs and use bins properly.

Staff can also provide useful information to management about what is working well at the depot and what operations need to be reviewed. Staff are the eyes and ears of the depot, observing daily user interactions and receiving feedback from users about the depot operations.

To be effective, staff must be adequately trained in safety, first aid, emergency response and behaviour management. All staff must be provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and regularly inspected to ensure equipment is in good condition and meets the size and job specific needs of workers. Examples of PPE include latex and/or heavy gloves, safety vests, hard hats and safety boots.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be developed to guide staff and include procedures to address a wide range of potential operational challenges, such as operating the depot during extreme cold or hot weather conditions and other dangerous weather events. The SOP must address health and safety concerns and other depot related activities. As an alternative, these procedures may be developed as a master document, otherwise known as a Site Operating Plan, intended to address not only health and safety concerns but all operating procedures and safe operating practices.

Records of staff training should be maintained/checked regularly to ensure training requirements are met and up to date. In Ontario, depot owners and operators should consult the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to ensure they meet the regulated training requirements. For more information on staff training, see the Small Municipal Depot Guidebook.

Monitoring and record keeping

All in-bound vehicles should be screened to ensure that recyclables are sorted properly and potentially dangerous materials do not enter. Monitoring and record keeping help provide important information for effective depot operations, setting budgets and providing feedback to the public and Council.

A good monitoring and record keeping system can:

  • Provide a means by which the community can assess whether they are achieving waste diversion targets and operational efficiencies
  • Provide accurate data and information to meet agency reporting requirements
  • Ensure staff have appropriate training to operate safely in a safe working environment
  • Engage with the public to effectively promote waste diversion activities
  • Identify operating issues and mitigate them in a timely manner

All aspects of depot operations should be monitored from the point at which a vehicle enters the depot to its exit. All vehicles should be screened on entering to ensure that only accepted materials are being discarded and efforts to separate recyclables have been taken.

Training staff on the proper screening, monitoring and outreach techniques is important to a well-functioning depot and a positive user experience. Well trained staff conducting the screening process will help reduce contamination and promote waste diversion by providing an opportunity to educate users on how to segregate materials properly.

Reporting and record-keeping also serve a vital operational function by enabling staff to evaluate performance and identify operating issues that need to be mitigated. Additional benefits include:

  • Schedule bin transfers based on volumes and peak traffic times (many small municipalities can significantly reduce depot costs by switching from regularly scheduled bin transfers to “on-call” transfer only when bins are full)
  • Identify peak storage or container requirements
  • Provide information used to develop targeted promotion and education campaigns
  • Identify opportunities for cost savings and increased effectiveness

Data that should be recorded regularly includes:

  • Number of vehicles and vehicle IDs
  • Inbound and outbound tonnages (or volumes), waste types and tip fees
  • Origin and destination of the waste
  • Rejected waste loads
  • Customer complaints and resolutions
  • Service vehicle records
  • Payments received
  • Daily weather conditions (temperature, wind speed/direction to respond to odour issues)
  • Spills, health/safety incidents and identification of potential hazards
  • Incidental waste (illegal dumping, unacceptable waste drops, etc.)
Nuisance and emergency planning

Making provisions for nuisances such as runoff, dust, odour and vectors is an important part of successful depot operations. Understanding depot impacts can be a first step in resolving them. The level of effort required to deal with nuisances will depend on the remoteness of the site, the number, type and distance of neighbours, the number and type of animal invasions and frequency of complaints. A range of measures are available to manage nuisances, which are further explored in the Small Municipal Depot Guidebook (pg. 58).

The depot must also have an Emergency Response Plan outlining how emergency situations will be managed and how responsibilities are assumed by staff. The Emergency Response Plan is a requirement of the ECA application process and should include, at a minimum:

  • Response plans for fire, emergency, hazardous waste spills
  • Location and usage of emergency response equipment
  • Duties and responsibilities in emergency situations for both site staff and supervisors
  • First aid, health and safety training requirements (e.g. preventative and response actions)
  • Coordination with emergency services
  • Designated emergency meeting areas
  • Emergency contact number on a high visibility sign
  • Reporting and response plans for injuries and other health and safety incidents

All site staff should have emergency management training, be familiar with the Emergency Response Plan, have resources available on site to carry out emergency action and know where to find emergency response related information. Practice drills should be carried out regularly and documented.