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City offers three extra garbage bag tags per household during pandemic

'I wish we lived in a world where it was unnecessary to do this, but the reality is we're not,' says councillor
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With more people working from home or waiting out the COVID-19 pandemic before they can head back to work, topped off by kids also being home from school, the city offering up three extra bag tags per household to handle the expected increase in garbage. 

The additional tags will be mailed out upon request, with the cost being covered by council's strategic priorities account. The deadline for tag requests is June 30, at which point the idea could be revisited depending on how long the pandemic lasts.

"We recognize that there are more people (at home) and we recognize that this could possibly increase the amount of garbage," said City of Barrie CAO Michael Prowse. "The reality is we provide an essential service when it comes to waste collection.

"During these very difficult times, this service is fragile," added Prowse.

The city is encouraging people to use their green bins, blue boxes and grey boxes to divert as much waste as possible from the Ferndale Drive landfill, which has a remaining lifespan of approximately 12 years. 

But city council's decision to provide the tags Monday night didn't come without some concerns and questions. 

"I wish we lived in a world where it was unnecessary to do this, but the reality is we're not," said Ward 9 Coun. Sergio Morales, noting the volume of garbage and recycling in Ward 1 on Monday was "insane."

"For the people who haven't seen it, the volume is up," he added. 

Morales said he doesn't want to see people tossing their garbage at work, businesses or recreation facilities.

"There are so many more things that people are focusing on, like job stability, and if this is one way to help people even in the short term, then unfortunately we have to," he said. 

"The three tags kind of hits a nice balance," said Coun. Clare Riepma, who represents Ward 1. "It helps people out in the short term. I think it's a nice compromise for the moment."

With more people at home, some are trying to stay busy and that includes decluttering their living spaces, which can lead to more bags at the curb. 

"They will be creating more residential garbage and we need to find a way to help," said Ward 8 Coun. Jim Harris. "It's a compromise in the interim."

Coun. Gary Harvey, who represents Ward 7, said he supports the move, but questioned its impact.

"I have had a few calls in relation to this particular issue," Harvey said. "Personally, I don't think it's going to have much of an impact. With a family of four, we seem to always manage. Most times every two weeks, I'm only putting out one can.

"But with everybody being home, we just need to treat it like we're on summer vacation and we're almost under this forced house arrest due to this current situation," he added.

Deputy Mayor Barry Ward was the only member of council who voted against the move. 

"I do not think it's necessary," Ward said. "For the vast, vast majority of residents, they can get by."

While Ward added "there may be exceptions," he said residents should take the opportunity to learn more about recycling and composting. 

"There should be no excuse for this and people having more garbage," Ward said. "Thousands of Barrie residents work out of their homes all the time and have figured out how to do it."

Morales also had concerns about residents getting the free tags and then "flipping them" or reselling the tags.  

"This is going to cost all taxpayers at the end of the day," he said, "so it needs to go to who it was intended to."

Prowse said city staff will use discretion about who gets the tags. The CAO also added that is why the are providing them upon request and not just mailing them out to all households. 

Residents who require garbage tags can email or call Service Barrie at 705-726-4242 and provide their name and address. Tags will be mailed out.

The city asks that only one additional bag (with a tag) be used per collection week. The tag must be attached to the neck of the garbage bag. Tags cannot be affixed to bulk items.

Currently, curbside collection is occurring as scheduled and wit​h the usual limits, which is two standard-sized bags every other week, with a maximum weight of 45 pounds per bag. There is unlimited green-bin and recycling collection every week.

To keep curbside collection drivers safe during the pandemic, the city is also asking residents to place facial tissues, paper towels and napkins in a securely tied garbage bag instead of the green bin.

Residents are reminded to sort garbage, green bin and recycling material properly, and ensure that cleaning wipes go in the garbage. They cannot go in the green bin and should not be flushed.

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Raymond Bowe

About the Author: Raymond Bowe

Raymond is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting from Simcoe County since 2000
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