Goodbye Autobins: Winnipeggers have to own their garbage

If there is one physical symbol that stands against all arguments in favour of socialism, it’s the Autobin. Autobins hold out in the places where socialist ideals still linger, such as Wolseley, West Broadway and the North End.

However, recently, in an act of socialist defiance, the public works committee at City Hall has approved Winnipeg’s Garbage and Recycling Master Plan (GRMP). 

Autobins are quintessentially communal. Anyone can anonymously throw whatever they like into the Autobins with very limited personal consequences, leaving citizen groups to clean up the mess (such as the West Broadway Clean-up crew).

Somehow every week our backyard Autobins overfill, which seems impossible given how many bins exist.

Regrettably, people fail to recycle, contributing to overfill. Even more maddening, construction companies and do-it-yourselfers take advantage of the anonymity Autobins provide and dump their personal waste.

Currently, Winnipeg’s garbage collection system resembles the same garbage free-for-all, paid-by-everyone approach. Brady Road Landfill is in effect one large Autobin.

For $10 you can throw basically throw whatever you like into a great heaping mass.

Right now, Winnipeg diverts only 15 per cent of its garbage for a total of 342 kilograms per person per year. This number is even artificially low because it only includes curbside collection and does not include items taken to the dump personally, or industry waste taken.

If those practices are included it is over twice this number. And even this number is low because it does not account for garbage taken to BFI’s private dump. Therefore, it would not be an egregious statement to say Winnipeggers create a ton of garbage per person per year. 

The GRMP is an attempt to eliminate the anonymous Autobin approach and divert more of Winnipeg’s garbage into practices more focused on accountability.

In the near future every household will receive a 360 oz. black bin for garbage as well as a 360 oz. blue bin for recyclables.

The hope is that individual bins limit garbage consumption and dissuade illegal dumpers by removing the anonymity. There are signs that the implementation of the black bins in the northwest of Winnipeg has been successful in both these regards.

The GRMP is also an attempt to bring the diversion rate up to 50 per cent by 2019 through a variety of initiatives.

One is the standardization of carts as mentioned above, bi-weekly collection of leaf waste in compostable bags from April to November, the creation of Community Resource Recovery facilities, an increase in recycling capacity, more promotion and education of diversion initiatives and a pilot program for the curbside pickup of organics.

The Community Resource Recovery facilities will be first introduced in the south and in the north of the city.

Later the city plans to have them built in the west and east. These are an attempt to recover salvageable items before they end up buried at the dump.

These initiatives are not free and will be funded through a quarterly fee of $12.50 charged to your water bill.

The Winnipeg Sun broke down the expenses nicely to show that Winnipeggers pay an average total of $59 for garbage collection now (as a portion of property tax) and will pay $109 in 2014 (through a combination of property tax and the new garbage charge).

Now, I know what you are saying - a flat tax goes against the ownership principals I exposed at the beginning of the article.

I admit the plan is not perfect and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the libertarian groups such as the Green Action Centre.

The Green Action Centre proposed at City Hall that residents should be given a choice on the size of garbage bin used and charged accordingly. A worthy suggestion, but it was ditched in favour of standardization.

There are other ways the GRMP could go further and save money. Toronto currently only picks up garbage on a bi-weekly basis and Winnipeg could charge a disposal levy at point-of-purchase.

All in all though, the GRMP is a cost-effective approach that forces us to personally take ownership of our current wasteful habits.

Lucas Redekop is a mature student at the University of Winnipeg with an interest in civic discourse. He lives in West Broadway.

Published in Volume 66, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 12, 2011)

Related Reads