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Duncan to switch to fully-automated garbage collection

But new service will come with extra costs
City of Duncan to switch to fully automated garbage pick up. (File photo)

Duncan city council unanimously decided to move forward with plans to implement a fully automated solid-waste collection program in the municipality after receiving favourable feedback from a number of its residents on a recent survey.

Brian Murphy, Duncan’s director of public works and engineering, said at the council meeting on Aug. 15 that of the 38 residents who participated in the PlaceSpeak public survey that ran for three weeks and laid all the pros and cons of the new proposed initiative, 29, or 76 per cent of them, were in favour of switching to a fully automated garbage program.


He said the city also received feedback from residents through other means and he estimates support for the service with all the respondents included is between 60 and 70 per cent.

“Given the overall positive results from the public survey and the analysis of pros and cons presented, staff recommend placing the order for a new fully automated solid-waste collection vehicle in 2022, and plan for the [new service] to roll-out in 2024, after the new vehicle is delivered,” Murphy said.

“The implementation plan for automated collection would take advantage of the full truck delivery lead time of at least two years for both staff and residents to prepare properly for the new program.”

Coun. Stacy Middlemiss noted that just 38 residents participated in the survey and asked Murphy how the survey was advertised.

Murphy said it was advertised on the city’s Facebook page twice a week over the three weeks the survey was conducted, and an article in the newspaper on the issue talked about the survey as well.

“We’d love to see more participation, but the number of respondents to the survey rates well compared to some other public surveys we’ve done,” he said.


Murphy told council in a meeting last month that the city’s current garbage truck, which is semi-automated, is at the end of its life and a replacement truck needs to be ordered.

He said the truck’s replacement raises the question of whether the city should remain with semi-automated solid-waste collection or switch to fully automated solid-waste collection, which is a switch many municipalities have made over the past decade mainly for safety and efficiency reasons.

But Murphy said switching to a fully automated system will come with higher costs for residents.

He said the purchase cost for a new fully automated collection truck is estimated to be $425,000, while the cost for a new semi-automated collection truck is estimated to be $400,000.

As well, Murphy said the capital costs for providing three new automated collection carts to each service location in Duncan will be significant, and larger cart sizes will collect additional volumes and the city will incur higher tipping fees as a result.

The current rate for semi-automated collection in the city is $146.48 annually per household, but with a fully automated system, the annual rate per household is estimated to be in the range of $199 to $210.

Murphy said when the implementation plan for automated garbage collection has been fully developed, staff will report back to council with the plan, including recommended cart sizes and options, confirmation of co-mingled yard waste collection, roll-out timeline and communications plan, and final rate requirements.

“However, the decision to implement automated collection is effectively final with the decision to order a new automated collection vehicle,” he said.

“There will be no straightforward option for changing this decision afterwards.”

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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