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Toronto council calls for action on battered, broken and overflowing public garbage bins
May 13, 2022
Nick Westoll

Members of Toronto city council are calling for action to be taken on the hundreds of outstanding work orders involving public garbage containers on municipal sidewalks across multiple communities.

“The impression I have and it’s anecdotal ... I’ve never seen so many of our bins vandalized with doors ripped off, with garbage hanging out,” Coun. Mike Colle said during a meeting on Wednesday after raising the issue at a committee, adding maintenance and repairs appear to have dropped off in the past year.

“Something has happened: Whether the performance standards haven’t been met, nobody cares anymore, and I know people have all kinds of conspiracy theories.”

CityNews looked at multiple public waste containers that the municipality has contracted Astral Out of Home to maintain in York and downtown Toronto on Thursday and of those seen, many had visible wear and tear, damage around the sides, waste stuck on the bin entry flaps and in two instances the front doors were loosely open.

A container on Bay Street had its door wide open with three of the interior bins left on the sidewalk.

On Twitter, there isn’t a shortage of reports to 311 Toronto over the past several months about the bins as well as general litter and containers maintained by the City of Toronto in parks and other green spaces.

An Instagram account called “Garbage Fails,” which was recently deleted, even featured a dozen badly damaged or wide-open sidewalk bins.

During a question-and-answer period, City of Toronto Transportation Services General Manager Barbara Gray said there are currently around 500 complaints about the Astral Out of Home-maintained bins.

The company, a subsidiary of Bell Media, was awarded a 20-year contract in 2007 and the staff are responsible for creating, installing and maintaining more than 25,000 pieces of street furniture, including the bins. A portion of those furniture pieces have advertising. The City of Toronto’s solid waste management staff are responsible for removing the trash in the receptacles.

Gray said the company is required to fix emergency issues affecting the bins within 24 hours and all other maintenance issues need to be fixed within 48 hours.

“In the neighbourhoods, we’re also seeing many damaged bins and so we brought this to the attention to the vendor and we’ll manage to get these sorted out,” she said, agreeing the bins “aren’t aging well” as time goes on.

“Clearly we need to continue to press on them to get to things sooner.”

In terms of specific issues affecting bin maintenance, Gray didn’t have specifics but said supply chain issues are impacting the timelines for repairs. She said staff meet regularly with the company.

Dave Twaddle, a director in the transportation services department, said there were reports from the company it was hard to source the hinges for the bins, something he called “one of the main failing points.”

Twaddle said the company is required to powerwash the bins in the spring and there is a requirement for each bin to be wiped down twice a week, something Toronto Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong questioned.

“I just get the impression that there are a lot of bins out there that have been damaged ... 48 hours is like fantasyland right now for getting a repair right now,” he said.

“I can definitely say it’s been a challenge,” Twaddle said in response.

CityNews contacted Bell Media Thursday afternoon to ask about the complaints surrounding the state of the bins. A spokesperson said in a statement after the publication of this story that Astral Out of Home is “working closely with the City of Toronto, in partnership with Waste Management, to understand what opportunities exist so that we can improve as necessary.”

In terms of the City of Toronto’s role, CityNews also asked municipal staff more about the complaints received and what’s being done to address those. A spokesperson said on Thursday they were looking further into the issues raised. This story will be updated should a statement be sent.

Meanwhile, Tory, with the support of councillors, pushed for Astral Out of Home and the City of Toronto to expedite the replacement of bins, ensure the bins are emptied more regularly, and for more data reporting on the issue to come back to city council.

“There is no question that there has been a deterioration for whatever reason in the state of these bins,” Mayor John Tory said on Wednesday.

Coun. Frances Nunziata said a business improvement area in her ward along with her office tried for a month to get a bin dealt with.

“I think we need to make a lot of improvements,” she said.