Automated Cart Collection: What We Have Learned?

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Peel Region transitioned from Blue Box collection to an automated cart-based collection system in January 2016. Cart-based service offers residents more storage capacity for recyclables between collections and allows the Region to collect recyclables every other week rather than weekly. While the roll out to roughly 300,000 households was one of the largest and most complex program launches ever, the Region expects to save between $4.99 and $6.67 million/year while increasing annual Blue Box recovery by 6.5% to 7.1%.

Staff support team conducting set-out audits. Source: Region of Peel
Staff support team conducting set-out audits.
Source: Region of Peel

An expected increase in residue rates
Peel Region staff shared some of the results and lessons learned after their first quarter at the June, 2016 Ontario Recycler Workshop. Here’s what they reported:

  • As expected, residue rates increased by ~2,600 tonnes in Q1 2016 over Q1 2015, with a 22% increase in residue shipped from the MRF
  • Scrap metal increased 76.9%
  • MRF downtime increased to an estimated 380 hours (26 days) of processing to remove non-recyclable materials
  • MRF stoppages increased from 11 per day (pre-carts) to 21 per day, largely to remove home health care waste
  • If left unchecked over a year, Peel could incur an additional ~$490,000 to landfill residue, manage scrap metal and cover processing fee adjustments for increased inbound non-recyclable contamination tonnage.

Meeting the ‘residue challenge’ head on

Removing non-recyclables from inbound materials Source: Region of Peel
Removing non-recyclables from inbound materials
Source: Region of Peel

Based on its research and experience from an earlier pilot program, the Region was prepared for these challenges. CIF provided funding support for developing, testing and implementing a multi-media promotion and education campaign to provide clear messaging for residents to remind them how to recycle properly, using the carts.

Peel also hired a 21-member staff support team to conduct curbside set out audits and help deliver messaging to residents about how to comply with program policies and practices. And, in a wise move, the Region delivered a targeted campaign jointly with Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) and other home health care service providers (retailers, distributors, pharmacies) to address the medical waste issues.

Making inroads…
As the second quarter of the year closed, the Region was making inroads to correct residue issues.

Region Waste Program Planning Supervisor, Trevor Barton, says, “every day we make progress because we had a plan; we were prepared.  If you are thinking about making a similar shift, planning and building a sufficient budget to implement your plan is critical.  Without it the rising residue rates and the costs to manage that residue will eat away at your projected cost savings. Resident confusion over what should and should not be set it in their recycling carts can be managed through a good P&E campaign.”

Next steps
CIF will continue to work with Region staff over the remainder of the year and will share updates on Peel’s P&E campaign progress and movement towards their cost savings and diversion goals.

See Trevor’s slides from the ORW (starts at slide 151) and listen to his presentation

For more information
Please email Carrie Nash

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