Still waiting for the city to pick up leaves from your gutter? Here’s what to expect
The first real snowfall of the season last week gummed up the special service for parts of Etobicoke and Scarborough, but for now it’s back on track.
Nov. 22, 2022
If you’re wondering if the city is still on its way to scoop up the leaves you so carefully piled at the curb in front of your house, fear not.
As long as we don’t get a Buffalo-style snowstorm -- or even a 10- to 15-centimetre dump over the next two weeks or so -- the city should make good on its promise to provide mechanical leaf collection for select streets in Etobicoke and Scarborough.
Every autumn, the city sends front-end loaders and dump trucks to dozens of heavily treed streets in Etobicoke and along the Scarborough Bluffs to pick up leaves that residents are encouraged to rake out to the curb instead of stuffing them into paper bags.
It’s no frill. Some areas are so inundated with leaves that they plug up catch basins and cause localized flooding. So the city gets out in front of the problem by offering a special collection service.
For those eligible -- a source of resentment for people who aren’t -- there’s an easily overlooked qualifier, shown on the mechanical leaf collection webpage on toronto.ca: “This year’s leaf collection will be cancelled if there is an early significant snowfall.”
The first snowfall of the season, last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, appeared to be significant. City workers who would have been cleaning up leaves were redeployed to snow clearing.
I live on one of the Scarborough streets scheduled for mechanical collection last week. After piling a massive heap of leaves at the curb instead of bagging them, I was feeling chuffed; my yard is surrounded by trees that drop enough leaves to fill at least 25 bags.
My street was miraculously cleared of snow-covered leaves last Friday but leaf piles on other streets scheduled for service last week in my area have yet to be collected.
It had me wondering about a repeat of 2019, when two snowstorms in mid-November resulted in cancellation of mechanical collection on many streets, particularly in Etobicoke. Residents were told there would be no service until autumn of 2020. The alternatives were to bag them for pickup in spring or leave them piled on the street, to be scattered into catch basins.
It can work in reverse, too. An unseasonably warm and glorious fall in 2017 meant that the leaves didn’t fall nearly as soon; front-end loaders and dump trucks made their way down streets where many leaves were still on the trees, prompting complaints of poor timing and wasted resources from residents.
STATUS: I asked the city if last week’s snowfall qualified as significant. It did, said Dan McGee, a transportation services superintendent, but only enough to temporarily delay mechanical collection. It resumed last Friday, after the city got a leg up on the snow.
About 45 per cent of streets in the program had their leaves picked up as of Friday, said McGee, adding that the city “will make all reasonable efforts to return to streets where the leaves had not completely fallen from the trees at the time they were collected.”
If more snow results in cancellation of mechanical pickup, residents are advised to bag their leaves and put them out for regular, biweekly yard waste collection, which continues until mid-December, said Lisa Duncan, director of collections for solid waste management. If all else fails, bagged leaves can also be taken to one of the city’s drop-off depots, she said.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.