Midnight Trash Run

by Joey deVilla on November 18, 2004

Photo: The trash pile at Toronto's Bermondsey Transfer Station.
The trash pile at Bermondsey Transfer Station.

Accordion City — in addition to adding a new “green bin” into which compostable trash should go — has switched to a once-every-two-weeks garbage collection schedule. This is workable for my household most of the time, except for a couple of weekends ago, when a combination clean sweep of the house and king-sized birthday party attended by about 100 left me with ten bags of trash and six bags of recyclables. I had one week to wait until trash pick-up time and already the raccoons had made a mess of the garage (where the bags were being stored) twice.

My old tactic of taking the bags to Spadina Avenue, the busy street half a block west of my house, and tossing in my refuse with the trash of some business would no longer work. The garbage collectors will now only collect specially marked yellow City of Toronto bags, which businesses have to procure (I have no idea whether these are free or cost some nominal fee). I remember grumbling to myself “Rat bastards! I want my Tragedy of the Commons back!”

I decided to look at the Toronto trash and recycling calendar and found that a number of 24-hour dumps were scattered throughout the city. The schedules are such that residential trash can’t be brought in during business hours on weekdays; in fact, the ideal time to bring in your house trash is between midnight and 8 a.m.. For a night owl like me, that’s nothing.

I figured that the easiest place to get to that would also take trash and recyclables would be the Bermondsey Transfer Station, which is just off Eglinton Avenue, just east of the Don Valley Parkway. With the CR-V back seats folded down and the cargo area carpeted with newspapers and stuffed with bags of trash and recyclables, I motorbootied to the dump.

Bermondsey Road is a nondescript street filled with buildings devoted to light industry. The Bermondsey Transfer Station is easy to miss; from the road, all you see is a City of Toronto sign bearing the station’s name. The driveway led to a toll-booth-like station with a truck scale. I was instructed to drive onto the scale and hand over a $10 deposit, after which I was given a sheet of paper and told to drive down the road and into the main building.

An old guy with a long grey beard manned the station at the main building. He took the paper that the guy at the guard station had given me and directed me to back my car near the large trash heap.

The main building is a concrete cavern housing what looks like a minature air traffic control tower, bulldozing equipment and a hill made entirely of trash, whose height varied from two to five times that of my car.

I added my trash bags to their pile, after which I took some pictures and even shot some video of a bulldozer in action. I then returned to the “toll booth”, where I stopped the car on the exit scale and got $8 of my $10 deposit back.

Getting rid of the recyclables required a return trip to the “toll booth”, where I got another piece of paper to hand to the old guy at the building. He directed me to a smaller pile in the back corner of the building, where I unloaded my clear bags of recyclables. Unlike trash, there is no charge for getting rid of recyclables.

Bermondsey is one of seven dumps in the city [PDF file]:

There you go: a how-to on getting rid of excess trash. Who says blogs don’t tell you anything useful?

It may sound strange, but I recommend travelling to the dump, if only to get a sense of the waste material we produce (and often send to Michigan).

Bonus reading material: National Post writer John Geiger whines about having yet another container into which to sort trash, “Chief Dan George-type philosophy espoused by the solid waste bureaucracy” and about how our current trash situation is the fault of the “garbage bureacracy’s” bungling in the search for a new landfill. It’s all “I want my Tragedy of the Commons back!” and “What have future generations ever done for me?”

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 9:19 am

It’s like a disco for garbage! 🙂 I’ve been there, but only to drop off hazardous items, so I’ve never seen this side of things — thanks!


Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 9:50 am

it looks like the mothership was hovering over you as you dumped.


Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 10:08 am

Weirdness of the day: you’re the #1 hit on Google for “Bermondsey Transfer” – and that was before you posted this entry

Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 10:40 am

It costs money for the yellow garbage bags. The korean resturant near my appartment building, puts their trash in regular garbage bags and then puts them in our buildings trash pile. That is, they do it when henry and charlie don’t catch them and throw the bags back at them. I still don’t know if they called the city to commplain yet.

Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 4:31 pm

Do I understand this correctly? An INDOOR trash dump? Are they afraid someone will steal it?

(from Arizona, where the trash goes into great big holes in the ground, gets an extra heavy layer of dirt when the hole is full, and golf courses and parks planted on top while the trash settles for the next thirty years or so)

— Bruce A.

Anonymous November 18, 2004 at 6:17 pm

Joey — you got a deal disposing of that trash. Those yellow bags have to be purchased (Home Hardware has them and the closest to you would have been Wiener’s on Bloor) and they cost $2 each. So, unless your car is a gas guzzler, you saved yourself money.

I know more about municipal waste disposal than you’d expect thanks to my work in a certain city councillor’s office 😉

Jane K

Anonymous November 19, 2004 at 6:15 am

A side note, I have dropped off old computers to be reused/recycled at the Commissioners depo.

I feel better about at least attempting to recycle my hardware then dropping it off at the dump.

Some of the stuff was still good, so I told them as much and they didn’t burry it under other recyclables.

Anonymous November 19, 2004 at 5:14 pm

“An INDOOR trash dump? Are they afraid someone will steal it?”

That was my first reaction too… but i guess this isn’t a dump, it’s a transfer station. The garbage gets transferred someplace far away where land is cheap.

Toronto has an area of something like 7000 square kilometers. Ontario is like 900000km^2. Landfill for all Ontario’s population for the next decade would take up maybe 10km^2 at the most. If only 10% of the area of ontario is sufficiently easy to get to (compared to shipping your garbage to Michigan, say), you’re still talking less than .001% of the land area of Canada’s most populous province to eat up all the garbage. Considering how much space is devoted to strip malls, I’d say garbage gets way more than its fair share of attention as an environmental problem.

Anonymous November 24, 2004 at 3:15 am

I didn’t know that they’d switched businesses to their own bags. So much for my occasional fling at the plaza up the street.

BTW, I never told you about the accordion guy who plays at the subway station by work. Long before I ever saw your picture, I thought, “hey, could this be the accordion guy?”

Not being a complete nerd, I didn’t ask him that. Instead I asked him if he had a website. He looked at me strangely and said “no”. So I knew he wasn’t you.

I know, has nothing to do with the post.

Anonymous December 20, 2005 at 4:05 pm

I was looking for the exact info. that you just gave me.


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