City of Waterloo considers scrapping loose leaf collection program

Leaves sit curbside in a Kitchener, Ont., neighbourhood on Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014. (Phil Molto / CTV Kitchener)

The City of Waterloo is considering cancelling the loose leaf collection program following a review done in March 2021.

The program collects leaves that residents rake to the curb in the month of November.

According to city staff, resources are stretched thin as the same crew that deals with leaves also handles snow removal.

“It is difficult to meet the needs of the public,” said Christine Koehler, the director of transportation services with the city.

She said unpredictable weather is a big challenge.

“We don’t know when the leaves are going to actually fall off the trees and we have no idea when the snow is going to come,” Koehler said.

Residents in the Beechwood community are raising concerns about the proposed cancellation of the program.

“It’s not very forward thinking,” said Joel Blit, the president of the Beechwood Park Homes Association.

The neighbourhood association surveyed more than 130 people last month. The results found that 77 per cent want leaf collection to continue.

“One in six said so they would actually cut down one or more trees just to make the maintenance easier,” Blit said, in response to what residents would do if it the program was scrapped.

The group said concerns about the environment and the cost of buying bags would be among their concerns.

“By one estimate it will be around 100,000 bags of leaves that residents will have to bag themselves every single year,” Blit said.

Bagging leaves for curbside pickup or turning it to mulch would be the only other options if loose leaf collection ends.

Erica Ha used the leaves on her property to make her own compost. She said she wouldn’t mind if the city changed the program. She said she sees bagged leaves on people’s properties often, and added mulch is a long process but worth it.

“I just added some nitrogen and lathered it and let it kind of decompose over the winter. Perfect,” Ha said.

The staff report goes to council on June 14, where city councillors are expected to vote on the issue. Some councillors are keeping an open mind.

“I do know that there’s an option in the report to look at continuing the program in the mature treed areas only. So I am eager to learn more about what That might look like,” said Coun. Royce Bodaly.

“Last year we took probably 60 plus bags to the landfill site,” said Coun. Sandra Hanmer. “I do see the benefits and equally the concerns regarding the program as well as the benefits/concerns of cancelling the program,” she added.

According to the staff report $230,000 could be saved annually if the program is cancelled.