Broken and overflowing garbage bins still a problem across Toronto

The city has yet to hold Astral accountable for garbage bin disrepair, after council and former Mayor John Tory suggested more should be done to keep the receptacles in good working order. Mark McAllister reports.

By Mark McAllister and Meredith Bond

Nearly a year and a half after the city said it would crack down on the number of broken and overflowing public garbage bins, there’s no evidence anything has changed.

“In terms of the progression of how the numbers and the responsibility over the years it’s been status quo,” said Lindsay Broadhead, chief spokesperson of the City of Toronto.

The maintenance and upkeep of 11,000 litter bins fall to Astral Out of Home, a third-party company which signed a 20-year contract with the city in 2007. The city remains responsible for garbage collection.

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. Those numbers have yet to be produced.

Instead, the city claims there were 10,000 repairs overall for 2022 and another 9,000 so far this year.

Meghan Marshall, the community manager with the Bloorcourt BIA, said the garbage situation has been very frustrating.

“We know that there’s many shortfalls in the city but if we could just nail the basics like garbage collection and not having overflowing garbage cans, we would consider it a real win,” said Marshall.

Marshall added when there are issues with bins, it’s extremely difficult to have them fixed.

“I work with a handful of BIAs and it took me almost three months to have a graffiti tag removed from a garbage can on College last spring. It was really frustrating,” she said.

“I know the city is kind of like a conduit, middle person type situation, but it took probably eight emails and at least four or five phone calls before I got one specific garbage can clean.”

She said some BIAs have been forced to purchase their own upgraded “slimline” garbage cans in order to get broken ones replaced faster.

“They have a better tolerance to the day-to-day wear and tear than the clamshell ones that have a foot pedal.”

Last October former Mayor John Tory said he would be seeking legal advice regarding the contract with Astral and what might be done to improve matters. “I’m certainly not satisfied with the current situation,” he said.

City staff say the contract with Astral ends in three years.

“Until then, City staff are working diligently to find immediate and long-term solutions to address litter concerns,” read a statement. “There are no discussions about altering the contract at this time.”

“The contract itself has been talked about behind the scenes to ensure that Astral Media is meeting the expectations of their contract. And that’s what keeps happening now. There are no decisions being made in terms of the contract or any renewal, we’re sticking to the contract as it stands in terms of the progression,” added Broadhead.

The City and Astral have formed a Litter Bin Working Group, which is exploring new receptacle designs and will implement effective modifications.

“In those working groups, they’re going to look at the design of the receptacles and how they can be modern, appealing to the street streetscape, but also can accommodate the cups that people use,” said Broadhead.

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