The performance of Toronto's new private garbage collector has improved dramatically after a rocky start, meaning the city has no plans to penalize the company when an informal grace period elapses on Friday.
Toronto's solid-waste boss gave Green For Life Environmental Corp. four weeks to fix a slew of early troubles that led to late curbside pick-ups and more than 1,000 complaints in the first week.
"It's been a drastic improvement since week one," said Jim Harnum, the general manager of solid waste management. "We're at a point now where we can see this contractor will be sustainable."
Mr. Harnum said on Thursday that for about a week, the "majority" of GFL's distinctive lime-green trucks have been off the street by 6:30 p.m.
That is still half an hour past the official deadline in the contract – which allows the city to charge GFL $150 per late truck – but Mr. Harnum said it was not uncommon for municipal workers to pull in a little late. GFL's work has been under close scrutiny because it is a test case for Mayor Rob Ford's privatization push.
Outsourcing curbside collection from the 165,000 homes between Yonge Street and the Humber River fulfilled a major campaign promise for the mayor, who has said he would aim to contract out collection on the east side of Yonge if he is re-elected in 2014. (Private contractors have picked up trash in Etobicoke since before amalgamation.)
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the chair of the public works committee and a Ford ally, is pleased GFL's performance has improved.
But that does not mean GFL can relax.
"We've been watching them very closely and have been fairly firm in terms of telling them that we're going to ask for better performance and full compliance with the terms of the contract," he said. "They're complying now. We're not going to take anything for granted. We're looking for sustained performance and continued improvement."
GFL significantly underbid larger competitors to win the $186.4-million, seven-year deal with Toronto.
The contract is expected to save the city $11-million a year.
Opponents of the deal have been skeptical of GFL's promise to serve 165,000 homes with significantly fewer trucks and workers than the city-run service they replaced.
Those concerns seemed justified in the first week, when GFL rushed as many as 25 extra trucks a day into the new work zone.
But now the company is coming close to meeting the deadline with the 80 to 84 trucks a day in their original plan, Mr. Harnum said.
"It's experience. We've said that all along," he said.