Getting rid of Winnipeg's autobins has turned some back lanes into a stinking mess as residents make a last-ditch rush to fill the dumpsters with heaps of bulky, unwanted trash.
Winnipeg is in the midst of replacing 5,800 autobins with automated garbage and recycling carts as part of the city's move to a new waste collection system. Winnipeg's solid waste manager, Darryl Drohomerski, said about 1,600 autobins have already been removed and the remaining bins are slated to be removed by mid-August.
However, Drohomerski said the pending disappearance of the autobins has sparked an unexpected surge in garbage. The amount of trash in the autobin areas has nearly doubled in recent weeks, he said, noting Winnipeg typically only sees that much garbage during its year-end Christmastime peak.
Drohomerski said it appears residents and illegal dumpers want to get rid of unwanted bulky items before the bins are gone to avoid disposing larger items in the landfill. He said last Wednesday's garbage collection took all day Thursday and part of Friday to complete due to the sheer volume of excess rubbish.
There's so much extra trash, crews can't keep up. Drohomerski said crews are between five and seven days behind the regular collection schedule, prompting some to complain about stinky back lanes and overflowing bins.
'Like a third-world country': resident
"It is gross," said Manitoba Avenue resident Rick Negrych. "It just smells so bad."
Negrych said the bin in his back lane hasn't been emptied in three weeks and there's a stack of rotting garbage piled high inside and alongside the bin behind his home. The longtime resident said the refuse has attracted animals and flies and the stench from some neighbourhood bins is so bad it wafts all the way to the front sidewalk.
"We're like a Third World country in the North End now," Negrych said. "The city should be picking it up. I don't care if they're removing them, the bin is full."
Bill, who only gave his first name, was unpleasantly surprised to find garbage flooding the back lane of his Redwood Avenue home when he returned home on Saturday from a month-long vacation.
"I don't remember these bins being like that," he said while shielding his eyes from the sun to take in the view of garbage overflowing onto gravel and pavement.
Bill, who has lived in the home since 1968, raised concerns about what would happen to bulky trash under the new smaller-bin system.
"People dump everything, I don't know what they're going to do with the little bins," he said, pointing to a torn, velvet couch.
"The city is going to have to have a garbage truck going by right behind 'em."
Bill has come up with a plan of his own to combat the problem of overfilled bins.
"You want to know why the lids are still on that bin right there?" he asked, pointing to the bin directly behind his home. "I sit in the window and I can watch. If I see somebody dumping stuff in there that shouldn't be here, I come out and give them sh*t."
Half of trucks out of service
Adding to the city's waste woes is the fact half of Winnipeg's garbage trucks are off the road due to maintenance issues.
Drohomerski said many of the trucks are past their lifespan and have been breaking down regularly. He said crews have been working seven days a week to try and keep up with the extra trash but it's been hard to keep the old trucks on the road.
This Wednesday, Winnipeg will start the new garbage and recycling cart collection in autobin areas. Elsewhere in the city, collection is slated to start Oct. 1.
Drohomerski said crews are removing between 300 and 400 autobins a day and the hope is the city will be able to catch up with the amount of garbage.
"None of us anticipated people would take this opportunity to clean out their properties," he said. "We expected a normal volume of garbage and we literally have Christmas-volume garbage."