The most common complaint I hear among condo owners is always something to do with garbage.
Whether it’s the garbage chute, the garbage room, the rules and regulations surrounding garbage, or something in between – there’s much ado about human refuse.
Who cares, you ask? Why are we talking about this, you say?
If you think I can’t write 1,800 interesting words about garbage, you haven’t been reading this blog long enough…
Ah yes, condominium living!
Tis grand, is it not?
Living under one roof with 500 other people has its pros, and cons. And when it comes to the latter, I believe that our inherent human nature is responsible for most of the problems.
Our personal traits shine bright in everything that we do. People can be selfish, lazy, sloppy, careless, entitled, thoughtless, inconsiderate, and just plain stupid.
Most of the issues we encounter in our condominiums are man-made, and/or the solution would be easy, if not for human resistance.
As I said at the onset, garbage presents one of the biggest problem sets in all Toronto condos, and thus I’d like to explore these problems, the root cause, the potential solution, and lastly – whether it’s the condo and property management that is to blame, or the residents of the building…
1) Locking The Chute
This one is a classic!
The reason that many buildings have a garbage chute that automatically locks at 10:00pm is because residents would, or have been, choosing to ignore the postings, “Please only use the chute from 8am to 10pm.”
As I said before – many problems are man-made…
Is it ridiculous to suggest that a condo resident can’t use the garbage chute past 10:00pm? Yes, and no.
A condo owner should have the right to put garbage in its place, however, dropping bottles, as they clang and bang their way down the cute, creates a ton of noise. Every city has by-laws for noise in public spaces, for concerts, etc., so why shouldn’t a condominium’s by-laws address noise as well?
So the garbage chute locks at 10:00pm, and the residents with garbage are asked to kindly go down to the garbage room, and drop the garbage into the bin by hand.
The problem with this, however, is that most people are inherently lazy.
The result, is that people leave their garbage on the floor of the garbage chute room.
In the end, property management spends time and energy posting more useless signs that read, “Please don’t leave garbage on the floor of the garbage chute room,” as if this was going to deter lazy people from being lazy.
My vote: so long as point #2 in this list is addressed, I see no problem with the garbage chute being locked at 10:00pm.
2) Locking The Garbage Room
This one has always bothered me.
I see both sides, however, and I can argue them both as well.
On the one hand, a resident should be entitled to drop whatever he or she wants into the garbage room, as this is the entire reason we live in a condominium – the convenience!
On the other hand, you don’t want residents to have access to the room, as they could try sorting through the bins and/or chute for something they dropped accidentally, which presents the condo with a liability. You also don’t want them bringing bins full of construction debris to the room, when there are often by-laws about proper disposal of construction debris.
But then there are condos that take this too far, and for all the wrong reasons.
I once lived in a condo where the garbage room was locked, and I had to go to the concierge to ask him to unlock it. He looked at me and said, “What type of garbage is it?” To which I responded, “It’s garbage. There’s only one kind.”
He asked to look into the garbage bad, and I said, “No,” and he refused to open the room for me.
Absolutely, positively ridiculous.
Another time, I brought a Christmas tree down and asked him to open the room. He told me, “The deadline for disposal of Christmas trees was yesterday.”
I said, “Well I don’t need this tree to go to whatever special Christmas tree graveyard that the building had planned – I just need it to go in the garbage, with other household waste.”
He refused, saying that the tree had to be properly recycled. I think he put his own personal bias into the matter, and didn’t want the tree going in a bin with kitchen garbage.
I told him, “You can either open the garbage room, or I’ll just go cut this thing into four pieces, and throw it down the chute.”
He was not pleased, and the Mexican stand-off persisted. In the end, I cut it into four pieces, and pushed it down the chute. The chute didn’t clog, and everything was fine.
So what was the goddam point of it all?
My vote: the garbage room should not be locked. It can be monitored by concierge, and if somebody is tearing out an entire kitchen and trying to fit it into the garbage room, concierge should have no issue going down a floor, and saying, “Ummm….what the hell do you think you’re doing?”
3) “Don’t Put Large Items Down The Chute”
You just can’t stop a moron from being a moron.
And don’t try and outsmart me here. I know I just said that I cut up a Christmas tree and put it down the chute, but it was a mini tree – about 3 1/2 feet, and I cut all the branches off…
But sometimes, you’ll have a genius decide to roll up a 6 x 4 carpet, and put it down the chute.
Where’s the logic in that?
Can’t that person just see the carpet standing on end, protruding six feet up into the chute from a pile of garbage below?
No doubt about it – this is a a problem. But if somebody is jet-set on saving three minutes by stuffing the garbage chute with an over-sized item rather than trekking down the elevator to P1 and putting it in the garbage room, then you just can’t stop them.
My vote: this topic need not even be debated, however, I laugh when I see signs that say “Any shredded paper must be put in a clear plastic bag before being thrown down the chute.” Who the heck thinks residents are going to do this?
There have been lawsuits over this.
Green-friendly, environmentally-types who want an older condominium to “get with the times” and retrofit an old garbage chute with options for garbage, recycling, and compost.
The cost of doing so is NOT cheap. You need three bins instead of one, you need an electric “draw-bridge,” if you will, that moves to-and-from depending on the type of garbage, and most expensive of which – you need a new chute mechanism for each floor, which is updated with an electronic panel that has three buttons. This ain’t the same thing as the 1985 version!
The best story I can tell you on this subject is what I experienced at 205 Frederick Street in 2008…
There was a tri-sorter in the garbage chute room on every single floor, and people would sort their garbage, press each button, and drop garbage accordingly.
Then one day, as a member of the Board of Directors, I found out that there was ONE garbage bin beneath the chute, and all the items thrown down there – garbage, recycling, and compost – would end up in the SAME chute!
One member of the Board, who was a lawyer, absolutely freaked out – not just because the developer’s actions were fraudulent, but because he had spent time and energy sorting his garbage for two years!
The developer spent money out of his own pocket to remedy the situation, rather than drag it out through the courts…
Now the potential problem(s) with the tri-sorter is that if one bin is full, often it shuts down the entire machine. When the machine is “out out service” (point #5), we get people leaving garbage on the floor of the garbage chute room (point #2, #3).
See how all these items are intertwined?
My vote: in 2013, a tri-sorter is a necessity in a new building, but if residents of a building from 1985 want to pay tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit the existing chute, they’d better be willing to foot the bill…
5) Out of Service
My personal favorite.
When I first moved in to 112 George Street, the garbage chute was out of service in excess of 80% of the time I went to throw out garbage. I know this, of course, because I am obsessive-compulsive, and I decided to track the numbers for a week. I checked the chute about forty times in seven days, all between 9am and 10pm (when the chute is supposed to be active), and about thirty times, the chute was “out of service.”
I wasn’t the only person who noticed this either.
It was common among elevator companions to make small-talk and grumble about the garbage chute.
In the end, this problem created another problem: residents would always bring their garbage “out” with them, while leaving for the day, and either throw the garbage out in the metal garbage can outside the front door of the building, or throw their garbage into the can in whichever parking garage level their car is in.
I was one of these people. Sure, I could have taken my garbage to the garbage room, 80% of the time when the chute was out of service, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel it was my responsibility to do so, since the building was neglecting to fix a lingering issue. Instead, I would take the garbage out with me each morning, and place it in the garbage bin in P2.
Garbage can go in any garbage bin, right? I was still throwing garbage into the right place, wasn’t I?
Soon enough, we started to see notices about the over-flowing garbage bins in P1 and P2, which I thought was tragically ironic, given that this problem was the result of another problem, which wasn’t being addressed.
I don’t know what the building finally did to rectify the issue (they probably flicked a switch…), but now the garbage chute is never out of service.
A classic reason for the garbage chute being out of service: the cleaning staff is given Sunday off.
This happens in a LOT of downtown Toronto condos, where the property manager gets cheap, and tries to save wages for a “slow day.”
The issue is that Saturday produces the most garbage of any day (partying, cooking in, cleaning, renovating), and by Saturday night, the bin is full, and needs to be replaced. But if nobody is there to replace the bin on Saturday night, and nobody comes in on Sunday, then the chute says “Out of Service” until Monday morning.
Well, we’ve already covered this: people put garbage on the floor in the garbage chute room.
Some out of laziness, some out of frustration and/or protest.
My vote: there should always be somebody present in the condo who is qualified to remove the full garbage bin under the garbage chute and replace it with an empty one, otherwise we get MORE problems.
So those are my thoughts, feel free to agree or disagree.
But I think I’m right, FYI.
Anybody else’s opinions are just garbage…
P.S. – a reader emailed me on Wednesday and said “We have a winner!” In perhaps the greatest moment of human stupidity, somebody jammed an ironing board down the garbage chute: