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Toronto councillors, mayor frustrated over continued broken garbage bin problem
Oct. 19, 2023
Meredith Bond

City councillors and Mayor Olivia Chow are frustrated at the lack of progress by the company contracted to maintain the city’s consistently damaged garbage bins, an issue that has been plaguing neighbourhoods across Toronto.

Councillor Mike Colle, who first raised the issue last year, said from his perspective, the attempt by Astral Out of Home to fix the problem has been very marginal.

“[They’re] in disrepair. The doors are falling off, and that is still there. It hasn’t been fixed yet. So I’m going to be after them again. We’ve got to make those bins work,” said Colle.

Astral has two years left on a 20-year contract it signed with the city in 2007. The city is responsible for garbage collection. Astral tells CityNews they complete maintenance work, including cleaning and inspections, twice weekly in high-density areas on city streets.

In May 2022, city council requested that the replacement of bins be expedited and that quarterly numbers be collected for the number of damaged bins and the time to repair them. CityNews has requested those quarterly numbers multiple times, but they have yet to be provided.

Barbara Gray with Transportation Services said they have been able to expedite response to a broken garbage bin from 11 days down to three days and are hoping to improve it.

“They’re working very diligently to try to get it down to the 48 hours that we have commitments for and we see all the information to share that information with Astral and our bylaw officers come out and do that work. So clearly more needs to be done.”

“I think it’s a disgrace to our city streetscape. We need to do better and if I had it my way, and certainly something that I would support is just to move on from Astro and bring this in the house and actually take on what should be a core city service,” said Councillor Josh Matlow.

Matlow went as far as calling Astral “a complete failure.”

“It’s actually more normal to see Astral bins either broken or overflowing rather than seeing one that’s in good repair and has been collected,” Matlow explained.

“The contract was never a good one for the City of Toronto. The idea was good but the reality has been a nightmare,” added Matlow. “I have never experienced Astral to be a good partner when it comes to action working with the City to fix this problem.”

Chow tells CityNews she recently discussed the matter with the city manager, deliberately taking a photo of the state of a garbage bin at King and John Streets that had been damaged to showcase what is going on.

There has been little data presented to CityNews, by Astral or the City, as to how many repairs are regularly being done aside from a total of 10,000 last year and another 9,000 this year

“It is such an important visual for our city. As people, tourists, are citizens, walking, see the garbage bins overflowing. It just makes you think the whole city is dirty. Which it’s not,” Colle said.

Colle said they have to find an answer because the status quo is not working.

“One of the things that I ask them to look at is the digital bins, which work off solar power, [that] compacts the garbage. Maybe have the transition over to those bins right away,” said Colle. “

A working group has been established to work on a solution. In a statement to CityNews, Astral said they have completed compiling the input and feedback from Astral, the City of Toronto, and Solid Waste Management.

“We are now reviewing all options with the Team and will assess integration into the existing litter design,” read the statement.

Astral said they are also assessing the inventory of over 10,000 bins currently on the street.

“Astral is committed to working closely with the City of Toronto, in partnership with Solid Waste Management, to address any issues brought forward to us.”