By Robert Frank
With files from Rhonda Massad
“Citizens have expressed concerns,” Beaconsfield Citizens Association president Al Gardner told city council at its Aug. 24 meeting, following reports that the city intends to use trashcams in the vehicles that collect residents’ recycling.
“We’re already looking at garbage,” Mayor Georges Bourelle told reporters following the Monday night meeting, where councilors voted to pay IPL Inc. $400,000 to buy more smartbins: trash cans with embedded computer chips that monitor residents’ refuse use. “All we’re doing is using a camera to do the same work.”
“For us, it’s a more economical way to collect garbage, by eliminating jobs,” he explained, “the second person, who now goes and looks at the garbage.”
Bourelle asserted that once resident place their refuse cans at the curb, the contents cease to be their property and the city can do whatever it wants with whatever is inside. He noted that before implementing the system, the city diverted some residents’ garbage to city facilities, where officials analyzed what it contained.
“We did look into garbage to take a look and see in there to see how much recyclables goes into garbage,” he said.
“The camera won’t be able to read any fine print,” reassured Bourelle, but he nonetheless cautioned citizens that “anyone putting into their garbage confidential material should not be.”
Bourelle acknowledged that the trashcams will be operated by private contractors, not city officials, and that the city will keep the imagery on file indefinitely, to provide evidence against potential offenders.
Trashcams have already raised public ire in London, where Big Brother smartbins were discovered to be recording the identity of passerby’s smartphones and tablets build a giant database that tracked their movements.
They also sparked protest in Kelowna, B.C., in 2010, over privacy concerns. Two years later, the trash collectors’ union there balked when management installed cabcams to monitor drivers, terming it “an invasion of privacy.”
According to city manager Patrice Boileau, residents have until Sept. 25 to select the bin size that will serve their needs.
“They come in 120 litre, 240 litre and 360 litre sizes,” he said. “If citizens don’t indicate which size they want, they will be assigned an average [240 litre] bin.”
If, on any given collection day, you have more garbage than your container can hold, the city wants residents to ask their neighbours to use any extra capacity in their bin or store the garbage until the next collection.
Beaconsfield has also opted to hand out free do-it-yourself composters to residents. So far only 908 of the city’s more than 6,000 households have taken up the offer. Home composters can’t handle meat, fat and oil, though, which still must go into city garbage.
Pointe Claire, in contrast, has invested in industrial compost collection which recycles these materials, instead of fouling landfill sites with them.
Councilor Karen Messier reported that Beaconsfield’s trash policies have enabled the city to dramatically reduce its garbage volume.