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September 22, 2011

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Solid Win on Solid Waste

Talking trash wins international recognition for Port Moody

PORT MOODY—The return to in-house waste collection has won Port Moody a 2011 Solid Waste Association of North America Award of Excellence.

The contenders were cities, towns and municipalities across North America. The bronze award for Port Moody “recognizes outstanding solid waste reduction programs,” in this case for communications. The city credits CUPE 825 frontline staff and collection truck drivers as “recycling ambassadors” for getting the word out.

Port Moody returned to in-house service in 2009 after a decade of private contracted-out collection.  At the time, CUPE members were at the forefront of the campaign to improve service using public workers and city equipment.

On the first day, CUPE Local 825 members and city officials rolled out three new city trucks and celebrated with a pancake breakfast. Ryan Slattery, a CUPE 825 solid waste operator driver, explained: “We’re looking for a fresh start to bring better service to our residents. These trucks are equipped with the top-notch gear we need to do our jobs.”

Acting mayor Bob Elliot remembers the enthusiasm well. “When we launched our new in-house service, we had high hopes of improving the service and we took advantage of every possible communication tool at our disposal. Staff and Council used every opportunity to publicize our goals, explain the new recycling and food waste program, and promote less wasteful behaviours.”

The results have been dramatic. The city’s previous diversion rate (the percentage of recycled or composted waste), hovered around 40 per cent for decades. But within six months of the return to public collection the tally climbed above 60 per cent. This year the rate has shot past 70 per cent, the diversion target set by Metro Vancouver for 2015. As of the end of July, the average diversion rate was a whopping 75 per cent.

CUPE 825 president Bill Blackwood credits the relationship 825 workers have with the city. “The city management has worked hard to foster a good working relationship with our workers and that has made a huge difference.”  Blackwood says virtually all Port Moody services are now in-house. “Apart from that period of garbage collection being private, the only other contracted out service was some cleaning work at our community centres and city hall. A few years ago, that too was returned to CUPE building service workers and the change has been a roaring success.”

With the winning communications plan for waste reduction, Port Moody Communications advisor Leslyn Johnson explains that, “the delivery of our relentless campaign required the collaboration of front line staff hosting meetings and truck drivers acting as recycling ambassadors.”

Johnson says Port Moody now has the next Metro Vancouver target, 80 per cent diversion by 2020, clearly in its sights for next year.

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