The bear is concerned about the success of the deployment of the automated garbage cart

‘What can be done? Something needs to be done before anyone gets hurt,’ says Severn deputy mayor

While the majority of Simcoe County trash cart users are happy with the system according to a recent survey, there are still concerns about critters that could be lured to bins in more remote areas.

On Tuesday, Simcoe County councilors discussed the recently released results of a waste management satisfaction survey which found 87% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with carts, 88% were satisfied or better with services collection and 82% were satisfied with the departmental waste disposal facilities. Ninety-four percent of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the reliability of collection.

To read our full story on the survey results, click here.

During Tuesday’s discussion, Solid Waste Management Director Rob McCullough noted that the county is still working with residents to address a few remaining issues, including animal interactions with carts.

“We have an increase in the bear population. They roam the streets of Coldwater at night,” said Jane Dunlop, Deputy Mayor of Severn Township. “In Severn, the rubbish is only collected on Tuesday morning. These cottage areas fall back on Crown land. Anyone who wants to camp for free goes there. Garbage bags are torn.

“We get pounded with this in cottage country,” she said.

Dunlop said she received personal attacks as recently as this week via email about it.

“What can be done? Something has to be done before anyone gets hurt up there,” she said.

McCullough acknowledged that the county has received bear complaints from residents of Severn Township. According to information provided by the county, animal interference in litter is common in all litter collection methods and in all areas.

“While carts are not responsible for more bears in Simcoe County, responsible littering habits will help limit their impact,” the county notes on its website.

To limit interactions between bears and carts, the county recommends:

  • Preparation – Food waste is the primary attractant for animals; therefore, full utilization of existing organics carts is another sensible and quick solution to help limit animal interference with recycling and waste carts. The gravity lock on the green cart will help deter small animals from entering the cart.
  • Placement – It is best if all waste is stored securely to minimize potential animal interference, such as in a garage or shed. If space is an issue, prioritize indoor storage for your green cart, as it holds all the food scraps. Residents may choose to use their old methods of storage, such as bear-proof containers and transferring waste to carts prior to collection.
  • Go plan – Delay the deposit of your materials as close as possible to the day of the collection (preferably only out for collection on the day of the collection). If odors from your organic material are a problem, some residents freeze their green cart material during the summer and place it in their cart prior to collection.

Staff have purchased a small complement of specialized bear carts to be deployed to replace standard bear-damaged or destroyed standard carts, as confirmed by county staff’s investigation in order to mitigate costs.

“We want to start with education first, because bear-resistant carts won’t change the appeal,” McCullough said Tuesday. “The smell would still be there.”

Any cart that is damaged and can no longer be used is eligible for a free replacement.

The county switched to its new automated cart system on Nov. 1, 2021 — a move that sparked a flood of concerns from residents about the size of the trash cans.

In October 2021, at a council workshop on the issue, the county council pivoted on its unique position, voting in favor of allowing residents to swap their existing trolleys for smaller sizes on request.

In February of this year, 5,300 county residents requested smaller carts while 163 requested additional carts.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Midland Deputy Mayor Mike Ross noted that he had received more phone calls about the carts than any other issue during his tenure. He said he was pleased to see the high levels of satisfaction across the survey.

“Wow. Congratulations. Great job,” Ross said. “People complained at first but everyone in my neighborhood loves them.”

Midland Mayor Stewart Strathearn referenced the pivot on sizing.

“What I hear when I go door to door, unsolicited, is how the county listened and adapted even though residents will sometimes admit they were wrong, which is really something “, said Strathearn.

If you have a cart that has been damaged or destroyed, contact Simcoe Service at [email protected] or 1-800-263-3199 for investigation.