Saturday, October 03, 2015

Garbage Collector Injury Rate In Nanaimo

Collecting Garbage Is Not A New Service
How come worker injury is now such a big deal?

I am not entirely sure my memory is totally accurate but I remember a time when Nanaimo residents could put out two large garbage bags or two garbage cans for weekly pick up. In those days kitchen scraps and 'compostables' were not separated but were put out with the regular trash.

Clearly, lifting the bag containing all the garbage would have presented a heavier lift than the current system presents. Presently, the same amount of garbage that used to occupy one garbage bag is now split up into two different containers. It would seem that each 'lift' would be lighter than lifting the same quantity in one bag.

Then came a time we could only put out one bag or one garbage can for regular pick up. If we wanted to put out more we had to pay $2/bag or can. Compostables were still combined with other garbage and put at the curb in one bag. The driver had one bag per stop to pick up and toss into the truck or one garbage can to empty, but everything was in the one container.

A few years back we got onto the green bin for compostables which also included the types of food scraps I would never have put into my own compost pile. This gave rise to the questionable program of diverting that type of waste from the landfill and sending it to the experimental composting plant run by ICC. That is topic for a complete other article at a later date, but a case can be made for that program being a costly failure which has created as many problems as it ever solved.

With this new system the driver would have to pick up (every other week) one garbage can or bag of regular trash. Every week they would have to pick up and empty the green bin containing kitchen scraps etc. So, one week the driver had to pick up two things (green bin & one bag) and every other week only had the green bin to deal with. So instead of picking up or emptying one garbage container they now had two things to deal with. Arguably they are not handling any more weight and in fact are dealing with half as much weight as they were years ago per lift.

So why has this new system spawned all these work place injury claims now and was never an issue before, when arguably the drivers are not dealing with any more weight? Is this a matter of not being trained properly on how to deal with the green bins? Is it a case that when they doubled the number of 'picks' (one green bin and one garbage bag) they didn't consider the impact that doubling the 'picks' would have on the collector? Are some workers simply coming to an age where they can no longer perform the same physical duties as they once did? Could it be that 'garbage men' of old were simply stronger and better suited to the job that sanitation engineers are today? (:^)

On the matter of repetitive strain injury if the intent is as I have heard to be able to collect from 900 homes in a day, does that mean the collector will now have to make 1800 repetitive motions with a joystick? How many clerks do you see wearing wrist supports?

Finally, would this whole problem simply go away if we returned to putting all refuse in one easy to fling bag and forget this failed green bin program?? These injuries never seemed an issue until we got into the green bin split packer, made-in-Nanaimo experiment.

One Sure Fire Solution To End Garbage Collector Injury

Why have none of our councillors asked staff to find out what the cost would be to simply contract-out the entire waste/recycle/compost business and remove all future liability from the city?



  1. Nanaimo is on the wrong track, focusing on convenience and flash, rather than having a Zero Waste Community Action Plan solidly in place.

    As someone who has been in solid waste for nearly 40 years, seeing so many people with little if any practical experience designing waste avoidance/reduction solid waste plans, on PMAC's and SWMP committees plus at the staff level, means non resident/out of town consultants are used, to sell these types of illogical "status quo" ideas.

    Once one grasps that solid waste equipment/management/consulting/governing sector is a huge and lucrative industry/profession, it soon becomes clear that authentic Zero Waste doesn't stand a chance in this good-old-boys-club way of managing our communities discards.

    How can you tell if your community is paying for fake Zero Waste? Common sense is not anywhere in the plan and collection is the majority of the focus, not reduction, not reuse, not home composting, not prevention.

    Just imagine if folks in government, included in the design process, people with actual practical experience, at the level where ones hands get dirty and if actual Zero Wasters were included in Zero Waste Community Action Planning?

    You know if your community is serious about Zero Waste, if they've dumped the 3 "R's" and replaced those with the 8 "R's". As always, follow the money!

    the "R's" are:
    Repair and as a last resort:

  2. Jim - Was there any mention in the city's latest reports you read that it was the current city designed trucks that were causing the injuries?

    Just wondering how open the city is at pointing the finger, and cost, and their own screw up.


  3. In your picture you show a rear load truck. Using those you need only lift to knee height or slightly more, New trucks require waist or higher. Those green bins are heavy. From someone who was fortunate enough to have a summer garbage swamping job with another city during high school.


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