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Gearing up for greener garbage in Saanich

Saanich expects to divert 8,000 tons of waste from landfill annually

Old habits are hard to break, and Saanich waste crews expect some bumps in the next two weeks as the municipality transfers to a new garbage collection system.

As of April 1, new trucks, new bins and new collection procedures take effect in Saanich as a way to reduce (and hopefully end) the amount of organic waste that ends up in the landfill.

“We’ve been getting a lot of questions this week,” said Dave McAra, Saanich’s manager of solid waste services. He estimates on Monday alone Saanich fielded 500 phone calls and emails related to the new collection system. “It’s mostly around what goes in the organics bin and what doesn’t, and about cart placement at the curbside.”

The biggest changes for residents are exactly that: separating organic waste from garbage and recycling into a new green bin, and having to wheel the collection carts to the curb. McAra says Saanich hasn’t overhauled its waste collection system to this extent since the blue box recycling program was introduced in 1989.

“It’s going to take us a couple of passes to get all the wrinkles out because there are some big habit changes for Saanich residents here, similar to the changes we had to make with blue box,” he said.

While Saanich spent the last year educating residents on the switch over, McAra said there are still key messages that need to be stressed so that service levels are maintained and your home doesn’t miss its pass by the trucks.

• Carts should be curbside by 7 a.m. The new trucks use an automated arm to pick up the carts and empty them in the truck. With the lift on the right-hand side of the truck, the collection vehicles can only service one side of the street at a time so residents won’t have another chance if they miss the truck.

• Carts should be at least one metre apart and one metre from any stationary object, like parked cars and telephone poles. The lift arm needs space to work, and McAra says for most Saanich residents this can be achieved by putting the garbage cart on one side of the driveway and the organics cart on the other.

• Be hyper aware of what can’t be put in the green bin. McAra says contamination of organics carts is the hardest obstacle to overcome – namely with residents using plastic or biodegradable bags. (Biodegradable bags contain plastic.) He suggests using old newspaper to line the kitchen catcher to collect organics, then fold it up and toss it in the larger cart.

From a manpower side, Saanich purchased 13 new trucks to accommodate the new collection system. Each truck needs one person to operate it, meaning Saanich’s waste collection workforce will be reduced from 21 to 14 people. McAra says nobody was laid off, and this was achieved through attrition and moving people into different public works positions.

Saanich anticipates it will divert 8,000 tons of organics (4,000 each of kitchen waste, and yard and garden waste) from Hartland Landfill with the new green bin program. Beginning in January 2015, the Capital Regional District will ban the deposit of organic waste at the landfill.

Saanich’s organic waste will be sent from a Central Saanich transfer station every day and trucked over the Malahat to Fisher Road Recycling in Cobble Hill.

Mayor Frank Leonard, in an interview with the News earlier this year, said it’s unfortunate that transferring the organics will create a larger carbon footprint, but there just aren’t any local options for organics processing.

“Clearly our first choice would have been composting the organics close to home, but we’re of the view that second best is better than not at all,” Leonard said. “I’m hopeful that within the five years, the contractor may choose to bring something closer to us. We’re providing a lot of volume, and the numbers might work to bring it to the region.”

McAra said he anticipates public works staff will continue to be inundated with questions in the coming weeks as the program rolls out, from April 1 to 14. He suggests anyone with questions or concerns call 250-475-5533, email or visit


Did you know?

• Residents with mobility issues can contact Saanich and ask that backyard pickup continue. Approximately 800 residences have signed up for that service.

• Need a reminder to take your carts to the curb by 7 a.m.? Sign up to schedule a phone call, text message, email or Tweet from Saanich reminding you of your next collection day. See

• If you have no need for your old, smelly garbage can, Saanich will take it off your hands. Recycle it by dropping it off at the public works yard (1040 McKenzie Ave.) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Saturday from March 31 to April 12.