TORONTO – Rarely has garbage day been heralded with such fanfare.
Toronto residents became beaming spectators Tuesday as a parade of city trucks rumbled through tree-lined neighbourhoods clearing the debris of a protracted civic strike.
Rows of blue, grey and green bins, along with sundry bags, stood at the ready on curbs outside house after house waiting expectantly to be emptied now that the labour dispute has ended.
As containers of coffee tins, empty yogurt cups, pet food satchels and ripped envelopes stored for upwards of six weeks were cleared, Rachel Shalmon practically danced a jig.
“Hooray! I’m very glad that finally all the stinky garbage can be taken away,” said the 17-year resident living in the Toronto neighbourhood known as the Annex.
“I was worried about the rats and the raccoons that were coming here to the backyards, and am very glad everybody is back to work.”
Walking his dog nearby, Peter Shore’s ears perked up at the sound of squeaky tires and loud crunch of waste compacting inside a truck.
“I’m delighted,” he said, adding he felt relief that a room in his home taken over by recyclables was free again.
“The garbage we’d managed to put in bins out the back, but the cardboard and paper, tin cans and bottles, (had) taken over my guest room, and now that’s finally out.”
“Thank God we didn’t have any visitors because they wouldn’t have had a place to sleep.”
Garbage collector Joe Laronde, who has worked for the city for five years, smiled broadly and wiped his sweaty brow as he clung to the back of his vehicle, having tossed litter from several bins into its hungry mouth.
“People are giving us a friendly welcome back,” he said happily, despite finding a rat in one bin and noting there was even more trash waiting than he’d expected.
“We’ll do the best we can to get everything cleaned up,” he promised.
Thousands of municipal workers have gone back to work in the past few days after their unions and the city inked a deal. Curbside collection resumed for the first time Tuesday, among the most anticipated services because it forced the majority of residents to either store their waste at home or carry it to temporary dump sites where they were often met with delays or hostility.
Striking workers picketing the sites made residents wait to drop off bags of garbage. And at some sites where parks were used for storage purposes, residents tired of watching their backyards become junkyards fought with those depositing their rubbish.
Even though an excessive quantity of garbage was collected in the newly resumed curbside pickup, another 25,000 tonnes were removed from those sites. Some 5,000 street bins were emptied Friday.
Though many were overjoyed to see their overfilled bins suddenly vacant, the moods of some other residents remained foul.
“It was terrible, and then (union members) get everything they want,” said Joan Osmod. “It doesn’t seem fair.”
Wayne Kooy, who was still waiting for his garbage to be collected, said he felt citizens’s anger was justified.
“I think our current mayor let his council down and the city down in certain respects, and I think the employees themselves maybe let the city down, so I think there’s a dual blame here,” he said.
“Personally, I would not at this point be surprised if the mayor and council looked at contracting out (garbage collection) to avoid this problem in the future.”
Other city services booted up Friday, including libraries, golf courses and a ferry to Toronto Island, along with most city offices. Daycare began again Tuesday and outdoor pools were to open Thursday. Registration for children’s camps was to begin Wednesday.