Overweight bags, not just an airline problem

Help keep waste collectors safe by keeping it light

Imagine going to work and being told you have to lift a car. Imagine you have to do it all by yourself, every shift and it’s not just one car but up to 27. You’d either think your boss had lost their dang mind or you’d be excited because you work as a competitive weight lifter. Well, for waste collectors like Derek Pleasant, lifting the equivalent of 27 smart cars of garbage bags and cans is the norm. Derek and his fellow collectors lift up to 22,000 kgs of waste, collected from 500 to 700 homes, each and every shift.

Derek is certainly fit from having been a collector for the last five years, but he isn’t a weightlifter. Collecting bags and cans that exceed the limit of 20 kgs (44 lbs) causes a physical strain and can be downright unsafe. As Derek says, “I don’t think anyone is trying to cause their collector problems. They just don’t know how much we lift each shift and how each heavy bag adds to the problem. We need everyone to do their part to keep it light for collectors.”

The problem of overweight bags gets worse in the summer and becomes an issue for collectors’ safety. The reason for the increase, in both the weight and number of bags and cans, “…is mainly yard waste, such as grass clippings and dirt,” says Derek.

The Waste Management Bylaw states a limit on the weight of each bag or can, maximum 20 kgs (44 lbs), and the kind of can, which must be less than 100 litres and have fixed, non-swiveling handles. The City also encourages residents to leave their clippings on their lawn instead of bagging them for collection.

It’s unlikely that you’re going to bring out the bathroom scale and weigh each bag and can before putting them out for collection (although it you want to, totally go for it), so how do you know if it’s too heavy? Derek offers some simple advice: “If it takes you both hands to pick it up, or if you can’t even lift it but are only able to drag it to the curb, it’s too heavy! If you can lift it with one hand, you’re probably OK.”

Waste and recycling collection in the City is people-powered. Derek and his fellow collectors are the ones lifting each bag and can up from the ground–about four feet to get it over the lip of the truck–and dumping it. They do this over and over, thousands of times each shift. Please help keep them safe by keeping your bags and cans light.

For more information and other tips on how you can help ensure collector safety, please visit edmonton.ca/wastecollection.

 

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About the Author
Beth Padfield
Beth is a Communications Advisor with Transportation
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