Edmonton’s art of the cart: winter tips to avoid the oopsies

Edmonton’s fleet of waste trucks are equipped with new mechanical arms to lift and tip your garbage and food scraps carts.

But the waste collectors still need a hand.

This post has a few friendly pointers.

“Snow and ice might make putting your carts and recycling bags out properly a bit more of a challenge, but we’re all in this together getting used to the first winter of the Edmonton Cart Rollout,” said Jodi Goebel, who is the Director of Waste Strategy at the City of Edmonton. 

We asked members of the Waste Services Outreach Team to share what they’re seeing. They see it all. Every collection day for the last eight months, those outreach team members headed out on foot before the trucks arrived. They looked for “incorrect set-outs,” leaving information for residents on how to fix them for next time. 

Three of the most common set-out oopsies this winter are:

1. Cart placed on shovelled sidewalk, not on shovelled street

2. Cart placed or left in snowbank, not on level ground

3. Cart placed in wrong direction (arrow on cart lid should point to street or alley) or without enough room between it and the blue bag ( one metre between the two, please)

“Oops Tag” placed on cart to help a resident correct their set-out for next time.

We picked the Outreach Team’s brains for some advice that you can take to the curb.

Q: What are some tips for residents to avoid these common mistakes?

A: “Shovel a pathway to the road so it’s easy to put the cart on the street. But there’s no need to shovel down to ground level if the road is compacted with snow. This way your cart is placed on even ground. You can also place your cart on or in front of your driveway, since it may already be shoveled.”

Outreach Team member Adrienne writes an Oops Tag for a cart placed in a snowbank, so the resident can fix their set-out for next time.

Q: On social media, the City gets questions about setting out carts on roadways with windrows and snowbanks. What are some tips there?

A: “Try to be consistent with shovelling where you set out your carts so snow does not accumulate. You can also talk with your neighbours to brainstorm ideas for snow removal and cart placement. For example, neighbours could bundle recycling together in one big heap, so they don’t have to shovel as much, or share food scraps carts if they’re not filling them every two weeks.”

Q: What are ways residents can reduce waste during the holiday season?

A: “Practice sorting and be conscious not to generate more waste than what will fit in your cart. Use Eco Stations if you have excess waste. Teach family members to sort properly and minimize volume by flattening boxes and crushing plastics. Or you can cut waste down at the source by using reusable bags instead of wrapping paper. If you do end up with excess waste, you can always bring it to an Eco Station.” 

For tips on how to reduce your holiday waste or properly sort it after the holidays, visit edmonton.ca/wastelessholidays

Q: What are hazards you (and collectors) experience around winter set-outs?

A: “Icy conditions and large objects like metal, glass or heavy items leaning on the carts or around the carts can be hazardous. Snow can also drift and pile up on and around carts, making them difficult to walk around and open. Recycling is still collected by hand, so icy set-outs are also quite hazardous to collectors.”

Outreach Team member Adrienne encounters cart set out on ice.

Q: What winter topics do people bring up with you as you work in the field?

A: “Some residents who haven’t familiarized themselves with the calendar or don’t use the WasteWise app are confused about the winter collection schedule and are still setting out two carts for collection. 

Some people have voiced concerns about shoveling to make room to set their carts out. Many are relieved to learn that, because of the winter schedule, they only need to shovel space for one cart.”

Two carts set out for collection during the winter schedule, when only one cart should be out at a time. These carts are also too close together to be collected.

Q: What’s your favourite part about working outside in the winter?

A: “Nature, the scenery and the fresh air. Also, garbage does not smell as much as in the summer.”

Outreach Team member Adrienne walks the sidewalk during the morning shift.

Q: When it comes to garbage, organics and recyclables, what are your biggest takeaways for residents? 

A: “An appreciation of the important change behind the Cart Rollout, which is to separate garbage from food scraps so those organics can, in turn, be converted into compost. 

The importance of reflecting on your household’s waste habits and looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste you create in the first place.”

Editor’s note: The pic at the top of the post shows the Outreach Team’s Adrienne on a mapping program to gather data on common set-out mistakes and areas where the City can help educate residents. Adrienne recording a recycling bag set out incorrectly. To learn more about how you can reduce your waste at home, visit edmonton.ca/wastereduction.