Saturday, June 3, 2023

Mailing Trash to GFL, Not a Wise Decision when Considering Public Health & Safety

Actions speak volumes but some actions may send the wrong message. Last week I read an interesting development in the local news about an Aurora resident who reported that he mailed his trash to Green for Life Environmental Corporation (GFL) after they failed to pick it up curbside. The resident not only mailed the trash to GFL but also created a video telling his story, sharing it publicly, and encouraging other residents to do the same. Local media Aurora Banner jumped on the ‘story’ creating a local buzz.

However, in my opinion, I think the action taken by the Aurora resident by mailing trash to GFL was definitely not appropriate. Any decision to ship municipal solid waste in the mail has serious health and safety as well as legal implications. Consider the exposure for delivery personnel, chance for contamination and soiling of handling equipment, other packages, release of offensive odours. Mailing trash to GFL was not a wise decision.

Firstly, I do understand the frustration and disappointment that could have resulted from the Aurora resident’s experience. There should never be an excuse for poor customer service. However, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ – so was mailing trash to GFL the right approach?

“Now, how many of you would like to have your packages or mail travelling with that ‘trash mail’?”

From the Town of Aurora website: ‘The Infrastructure and Environmental Services department’s Waste and Recycling division is responsible for waste and recycling collection within The Town of Aurora.’ And, ‘Green For Life Environmental Corporation (GFL) is the Town’s garbage and recycling contractor.’ In addition, the Town site also clearly states, ‘for information on your waste and recycling pickup please contact GFL’ and ‘for further information or questions, please contact the Town’s Customer Service department’.

If there is an issue with waste and recycling collection it’s advisable to contact the Town’s customer service department first. It’s the right thing to do unless it’s an emergency or a matter of public safety. To escalate concerns perhaps one of the Council Members could be contacted or the issue presented at a General Committee meeting if necessary. Of course, one could also choose to express their concerns through local and social media if there is a compelling benefit to make the public aware of an incident.

“However, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ – so was mailing trash to GFL the right approach?”

From a practical point of view, we are paying the Town for waste collection through our tax dollars; and all garbage related issues, including those with the Town’s contractors, can be considered the Town’s responsibility. It is important for the Town to collect data against its contractors and thus be able to provide consolidated feedback to the contractor. When there are issues I am sure the Town strives to resolve them. If the Town is not appropriately informed of issues in a timely manner there isn’t much they can do.

In both the resident’s video and the media article it was clearly stated that the resident did notify the Town about his garbage incident, and it was clearly noted that the Town did offer to collect any garbage left behind. Unfortunately at that point it was too late since the garbage was already shipped out to GFL.

So that brings us back to what I consider the bigger issue with this story, mailing trash in the mail. Take a moment to think about what collectable trash is comprised of – green bin compostables, blue bin recyclables, any other garbage. Let’s list some of the items that a green bin may contain – vegetable scraps, meat scraps, pet waste, soiled paper, sanitary and human hygiene products. Consider all that mixed together and packaged in bags and boxes that are not leak-proof, not temperature controlled, and not intended for shock and vibration of transport. And what about labelling such boxes with caution, warning or hazard labels to make sure they’re ‘handled with care’?

Now, how many of you would like to have your packages or mail travelling with that ‘trash mail’?– definitely, not me. We have enough virus outbreaks, E. Coli bacteria and diseases already circulating. Such additional risk to public health and safety is a serious concern.

“I consider the bigger issue with this story, mailing trash in the mail.”

In conclusion, I am disappointed with last week’s incident of an Aurora resident mailing trash, from all sides including how some of the media took advantage of the news. I strongly discourage residents of any municipality from considering to ship any forms of trash via mail regardless of the reason. Waste and recycling concerns and issues can be directed to the Town’s customer service department so they can be documented and addressed appropriately. We should remember that our actions usually have an effect on others, so it’s important to be accountable for any actions we take as well as the collateral effects. Let’s work together to solves issues in a more positive manner.

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON

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