Staff was asked to re-examine the exemptions for waste removal from the Central Area, as defined by Schedule B of the by-law. Ottawa’s condominium boom has resulted in more residents living in the Central Area, with a corresponding increase in the use of compacting equipment and the loading and unloading of containerized waste. In addition, a number of issues were identified during internal consultations that needed to be addressed through this By-law Review.
In examination of this issue, a review of noise complaints related to waste collection shows that the City currently provides reasonable and effective measures to limit noise. The issue is minor and infrequent, especially compared to other noise sources, with fewer than 50 service requests in any given year.
Table 3 - Service Requests for Waste Collection Noise, By Year
While the total number of service requests is small, it is noteworthy that 33% of these calls are concentrated in Somerset Ward and that all of these dealt with the removal of containerized waste. Most of these (83 %) were outside of the Central Area exemption zone, where the practice of overnight removal is generally understood and accepted.
For the purposes of this review, the City has considered three unique types of refuse collection: Residential, Commercial and Public Spaces.
This work is undertaken by the City and its contractors. This includes curb/street-side collection as well as containerized waste from condominium and apartment buildings. This service is conducted Monday to Friday, between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.
There have been no service requests related to noise from residential service. All times are strictly regulated through the Public Works & Environmental Services Department’s service standards and are included in contracts when outsourced to third party vendors.
This includes refuse from enterprises or institutions that is collected and processed privately. This type of collection is responsible for 98% of service requests related to noise from refuse collection.
Most callers also note that their complaint was made following frequent occurrences, and in most cases complaints were made between 4:30 a.m. and 7 a.m.
By-law Enforcement Officers have noted the difficulty in enforcing this provision, given that the noise generated, while loud, occurs for a very short period.
Under the existing by-law, Officers must be able to identify the equipment operator in person to issue a violation. With Officers unable to witness the disruption as it occurs, they must rely on witness statements, which need to include a licence plate number. Even so, it can be difficult to identify the equipment operator without the cooperation of the company involved.
As a result of this difficulty, the current by-law provides little deterrence.
This could be resolved by re-writing the section to utilize the same “cause or permit” language used in the general noise provision (Section 2). This would enable Officers to investigate and charge the company without needing to identify the equipment operator.
Additional deterrence could be provided by increasing fines. This combination of increased accountability and consequence should generate sufficient deterrence for commercial waste removal companies.
For safety and mobility reasons, refuse is collected overnight from public waste bins along streets and in City parks and facilities. Daytime collections are limited to areas where a standard bin cannot contain a full day’s worth of refuse.
The City collects more than 420 tonnes of waste each year from these bins, with much of the collection occurring early in the morning.
This is particularly true for main streets and Business Improvement Areas with a high volume of entertainment establishments, where it is important to clean up from the night life before everyone else starts their morning.
While this service is essential to maintaining vibrant and welcoming communities, and quality of life for residents, it does not necessarily meet the exemption criteria of “work undertaken for the immediate health, safety or welfare of the inhabitants of the City.”
However, with only one complaint over a five-year period and considering all of the economic and social benefits derived from the service, this practice should be permitted to continue. Any ambiguity with respect to the Noise By-law should be removed, by either amending the general exemption for municipal work, or the waste collection provisions.
Option A - Status Quo
With only 158 complaints over five years, this should not be an area of concern for the Noise By-law Review.
Option B - Exempt All Municipal Refuse Collection
Should staff’s recommendation for a modified municipal exemption not be adopted, an explicit exemption for municipal refuse collection would ensure that community standards can be maintained. This exemption would not impact noise levels within the community as this work already takes place.
Option C - Create Municipal Waste Exemption Zones
In addition to the exemptions for the Central Area, BIA districts and main streets would be exempted, for municipal refuse collection only. Commercial refuse collection regulations would not change.
Option D -Stronger Standards for Commercial Waste Collection
The City could strengthen measures against waste removal companies that repeatedly operate in violation of the by-law. By extending the reach of the provision to a “cause or permit to cause” application and by establishing corporate set fines, By-law Officers would be able to charge the company without having to identify the driver. The increased fines for corporations that are available through the Municipal Act would provide greater deterrence against repeat offences.
Staff is recommending Options B and D.
Service Request data shows that containerized refuse collection is responsible for 98% of complaints. Regular residential and public spaces refuse collection are acceptable norms within the community and are not significant generators of noise or noise complaints.
While the overall number of complaints is small enough to warrant maintaining the status quo, implementing the changes proposed in Option D together would serve to reduce complaints further while maintaining residents’ expectations for healthy and sanitary communities.