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Garbage collection falls behind for second day

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

The company responsible for garbage collection between Yonge Street and the Humber River in Toronto was running behind schedule for a second day on Wednesday, despite bringing in additional trucks to speed up its curbside pick-ups.

Green for Life Environmental (GFL) took over collection for part of Toronto beginning on Tuesday, fulfilling a key election promise by Mayor Rob Ford. The contract is expected to save the city more than $11-million each year.

But collection has lagged during the first two days of GFL's work, with workers out past 9 p.m. on Tuesday night and some garbage remaining on the curb until Wednesday morning.

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GFL deployed 20 additional trucks on Wednesday afternoon but remained behind schedule, according to an e-mailed update from city officials. They said the company would bolster its fleet again on Thursday to catch up with missed pick-ups.

"Our goal is to have all garbage, organic material, leaf and yard waste, and recycling completed by Friday evening," Jim Harnum, general manger of the city's solid waste division, wrote in the statement. "We would like to apologize for the inconvenience during this transition period and ask residents for their continued patience."

GFL chief executive officer Patrick Dovigi has said the slow collection times are typical of starting a new contract, adding they would improve as drivers become more familiar with new routes and equipment.

He also suggested that unionized workers at the city's transfer stations, where waste is dumped, were deliberately holding up the company's drivers. "It should normally take 15 minutes," Mr. Dovigi wrote in an e-mail late Tuesday night. "It's taking our crews over an hour and half because of the games the union is playing."

Mark Ferguson, head of CUPE Local 416, disputed the claim, saying his union hadn't heard any complaints about members slowing operations down. "I find it disturbing that those sorts of allegations have been made," he said in an interview on Wednesday.

The union has set up its own complaint hotline for people who are dissatisfied with their trash pick-up, which received more than 40 calls on both Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr. Ferguson said.

"The most common complaint seems to be missed pick-up, but there is also a side of complaints related to garbage strewn on the road or on the curbside," he said.

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Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city's public works and infrastructure committee, admitted the city hadn't anticipated the number of collection problems that have occurred.

"I think we expected that there were going to be some growing pains," he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "We just didn't really understand the nature and scope of it. Over the next number of weeks we're going to have to work out the kinks because sustained non-performance is not an acceptable arrangement."

He said drivers are still becoming familiar with the mechanical arm their garbage trucks use to pick up recycling, and suggested service would improve over time.

"If at the end of August or by September, if Green for Life has straightened this out then all will be forgiven and all will be forgotten," Mr. Minnan-Wong said.

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