Sunday, April 26, 2020 - 7:45 PM

The Facts on Litter Collection

As winter comes to an end and the snow melts, the City hears frequent complaints about the amount of litter. Under normal circumstances both the City and many community groups would soon begin large-scale spring litter clean-ups; this, unfortunately, is not a normal year.
Here are the facts on what the City is doing to address litter:
  • The Downtown Litter Clean Up contractor is in place and working with two crews. The City is exploring whether this contract can be expanded, and additional crews hired.
  • The Parks and Open Spaces Division has six employees assigned daily to supplement the existing Downtown Litter Clean Up contractual crews. They are focusing on the clean-up of dog feces, ground litter and servicing barrels along sidewalks, at City buildings and open spaces. 
  • Waste and Recycling Division employees are servicing single use and multi- stream containers. 
  • City of St. John’s and Grand Concourse Authority employees have begun litter cleanup and garbage collection along trails and roadsides. This is accomplished being mindful of the recommendations provided by the public health officials, in relation to COVID-19. Approximately thirty- two staff are involved. 
  • In early May, four full time staff will to be assigned to the Downtown Core and facilitate the placement and servicing of additional waste receptacles as well as the collection of litter in this area.
  • Also in May, approximately thirty-five staff will begin the cleanup and garbage/litter collection at parkettes, playgrounds, parks, plazas, open spaces, sports facilities monument sites and along roadsides. Additional waste receptacles will be placed and serviced along trails throughout the City.
While it is important to address the litter issue within the City of St. John’s, it is more important to adhere to the COVID - 19 pandemic advice provided by the provincial and federal health authorities.  They indicate that now is not the time to relax the strict protocols that have been put in place and are working.  Now is the time to remained focused and to continue to stop the spread COVID - 19 in order to protect our family, friends and community.  By doing so the City of St. John’s will have a greater chance of continuing to provide the essential services to its residents.
Why can’t the City do more to address litter?
The COVID -19 pandemic has forced the City of St. John’s to change how it operates:
  • Public Works Department employees are now following strict physical distancing rules, with one employee per vehicle (where possible) and extensively sanitizing vehicles and equipment.  
  • The requirement for physical distancing is resulting in fewer employees being present on individual work sites; employees are spread over greater distances and locations. 
The City of St. John’s Business Continuity Plan identifies core services that must be maintained. Staff are addressing these core services with fewer numbers. The regular work process of several employees assigned to a specific area is no longer possible. Intense activity at work sites does not occur. Tasks take longer as employee safety is paramount.
Assigning significant staff resources to the cleanup of litter and collection of garbage achieves a tidier space but puts staff and the residents at risk, because it:
  • places several employees in close proximity to others 
  • requires the physical handling of debris
  • requires more vehicles for employee and material transport
  • creates a greater service level for Fleet Division
  • increases the risk of virus exposure and subsequent spread
Most critically, should COVID – 19 infiltrate the work force, fewer employees will be available to report to work and the City’s ability to respond to core service responsibilities will be negatively affected.  This could mean a partial or complete shutdown of the Public Works Department. Water treatment and wastewater processing could be impacted. Essential services like garbage collection, ice control (salting), pothole patching and watermain repairs could be temporarily, suspended.  All activities must be done with safety as the priority, in order to continue to keep the essential services in operation.
Why not go ahead with community clean-ups? 
Clean St. John’s, a not-for-profit organization with a mandate to create and promote a litter-free city through volunteer-based action, has suspended community cleanups for the coming months. Volunteer community clean ups have been suspended because there is a prohibition on gatherings of more than 5 people and also requirements in place for physical distancing.
Unfortunately, the loss of 300 community cleanup events means it will take us much longer than usual get rid of the litter.
What can I do to help?
We thank the public for their cooperation and patience as we start the long and challenging process of cleaning litter from our streets, parks and trails.
We encourage individual residents to assist in addressing litter by tidying their immediate neighbourhood, bringing a bag to collect litter on walks – when it is safe to do so – and most importantly, to take their trash home with them when they are out, especially animal feces. Please do not use public garbage containers for your home garbage as this blocks these containers and increases the likelihood that trash will end up blowing around the street.