As areas of the Sunshine Coast enter a third week of missed waste collection, the District of Sechelt and Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) contractor for curbside collection is calling the company’s driver shortage “unprecedented.”
It’s a dynamic situation that changes day to day, Jackie Lang, Waste Management’s (WM) senior area manager for public affairs in B.C., told Coast Reporter on Aug. 3.
“The driver shortage continues to create service challenges, and we expect intermittent impacts to continue for some time,” Lang said. “We will provide recovery specifics as soon as we can confirm the availability of drivers, and we will continue to keep residents informed as conditions change.”
The regularly scheduled collection of household garbage, food waste and recycling was impacted beginning on July 20 for multiple locations throughout Sechelt, affecting more than 3,000 residences. Service to the SCRD and Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) collection routes was also disrupted in late July and continued into the first week of August.
The SCRD receives daily updates from WM during service days (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays), and if there is an interruption, the SCRD will create a service alert, Robyn Cooper, manager of solid waste services, said.
“We hope it ends soon, but that timeline is planned solely with Waste Management once they have new drivers and enough drivers,” Cooper said.
After collection was missed for the second week in a row in Davis Bay, Selma Park and Wilson Creek on Aug. 3, the next day was sheduled as a recovery date – but some Wilson Creek residents told Coast Reporter they did not receive the service on Aug. 4.
Lang said Aug. 3 that one new driver had been hired that day. “The $2,000 signing bonus is prompting interest, and we’re having good conversations with candidates about this being a career development opportunity, not just a job,” she said.
On July 28, WM issued a press release about its “aggressive recruitment” to address the critical driver shortage in Sechelt and the SCRD. The shortage is not unique to the Coast, the release said, but a challenge for driving industries across North America.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” WM public sector manager Alex Limongelli said. “We greatly appreciate the patience of Sunshine Coast residents as we work to ensure reliable and safe service.”
Meanwhile, WM made dumpsters available 24/7 at 5920 Sechelt Inlet Rd. for residents who have been missed for garbage collection. Approximately 30 people have used the boxes daily, Lang said.
Residents are asked to secure any garbage that has not been collected after 6 p.m., to prevent wildlife from accessing it.
“There are many people in our community who have limited mobility and may not be able to safely store garbage away from wildlife for multiple missed garbage pickups,” Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers said in a press release on July 28. “While this is an interim solution for some, we urge neighbours to look out for each other and help where they can.”
Cooper said the SCRD hopes everyone remains patient, and is appreciative of “neighbours helping neighbours,” whether assisting others bringing in their bins or offering to drive garbage to Waste Management’s available dumpsters.
Current information on curbside collection can be found at WM’s website, or the SCRD and Sechelt apps. Cooper said SCRD residents can sign up at www.scrd.ca/curbside-schedule to be notified about the service via phone call, text, email or in-app notifications.