Automated Curbside Pickup FAQ

Thank you for visiting our FAQ page! Please check back regularly as the below FAQ list will be updated as we receive new questions. If you have a question that is not answered below, please contact the Sort Toss Roll team by email at or by phone at 250-756-5390. 

Project basics

How will the program work?

Collection schedule and frequency

The Carts

Cart sizes for single-family homes

Cart sizes for homes with secondary suites and Non-Strata’d Fourplexes

For all Homes

Cart placement and maneuverability

Cart maintenance and repair

Please don’t move address with your carts

Cart Contents, Sorting and Preparation

Miscellaneous questions

What about my current bins and bags?

Project basics

How will the program work?

Why switch to automated collection?

Automated collection:

  • Offers a tidy three cart system,
  • is easier, safer and cleaner for residents to sort their materials and get them to the street,
  • makes recycling more convenient,
  • allows you to put yard waste in the green bin with your kitchen waste,
  • keeps our city cleaner because the closed cart lids won’t allow litter to blow into the street,
  • offers cost efficient service delivery.

What changes does automated collection mean for me?

An automated arm on the collection trucks grabs each cart and empties it into the truck. This system requires the use of specially designed, wheeled carts so you will now sort your materials into one of three carts dropped off by the City of Nanaimo — the green organics cart, the blue recycling cart and the black garbage cart.

Each week, you will put out two of the three carts for collection according to the collection schedule.

You are responsible for storing the carts and having them at the street by 8 a.m. on collection day.

When will the automated collection service begin in my area?

About 8,000 households in Central Nanaimo are already receiving the new service. The rest of Nanaimo will receive the service starting in July 2018.

How much will this cost?

The costs of the Sort Toss Roll program are expected to be around $8 million in total. This includes the purchase of 8 new trucks and 3 wheeled carts for every home in Nanaimo.

The project will be paid for by garbage user rates. 2018 garbage user rates are $165 per household.

This rate covers collection of waste from the standard cart set that you will be issued initially. If you choose to increase the size of your garbage cart, your annual waste collection fee will increase (this increase will cover the costs of tipping the additional waste at the landfill).

You can find out more about the anticipated costs here. 

Will the annual collection fee be determined by the weight of material in our carts?

No. All residential utility customers pay the same collection fee for the same-sized carts. The annual collection fee increases for residents who choose to increase the size of their garbage cart.

Do residents have to participate in automated collection?

Yes. In order for the city to maintain its operational and cost efficiencies, all existing customers are required to use the new wheeled carts that are part of the automated collection system.

Collection schedule and frequency

Is my pickup schedule going to change?

Yes. Waste collection schedules for all residents with curbside collection services will change when automated collection starts in North and South Nanaimo. Every household will receive a new collection calendar in early June 2018. Please pay attention to your schedule we have made some changes to our routes and your route number may have changed.

You can also download our free new app, called Nanaimo Recycles from Google Play and the Apple App Store. Never forget your collection day again. Schedules are also available here.  The app will be updated with new schedule information in late June 2018.

How often will the carts be emptied?

As with manual collection service, your organics cart will be emptied every week (you can now include yard waste in this cart), and your garbage and recycling carts will be emptied every two weeks on alternating weeks.

Is the same truck used to pick up the different carts?

The City has purchased eight new automated trucks for this program and each automated truck has two compartments for different types of waste. The driver will direct each cart to be emptied into the appropriate compartment for the cart’s materials.  You will place two of the three carts at the street each week for collection. The collection calendar will tell you which two carts to put out each week.

The Carts

Cart sizes for single-family homes

How much will each cart hold and how big are they?

The sizes of the carts delivered to your property are:Cart sizes for Single Family HomesMy family has too much garbage to fit in a 120-litre cart.  What can I do?

The garbage cart you are supplied with under automation is actually 55% larger than is permitted under manual collection. Are you certain everything you are sorting into your garbage is truly garbage? Many household items that aren’t accepted in your carts should be taken to recycling facilities. Check out these facilities and the materials they accept at or download our app and search what goes where. Alternatively, read on for options regarding upsizing your cart.

Why would the City provide a garbage cart that is 55% larger, aren’t we supposed to be creating less waste?

We absolutely aim to create less waste; in fact, the City has set a goal for the amount of waste we hope to divert from landfill. These carts are larger because the automated arm needs them to be a certain size so they can be grabbed and tipped easily. The carts are taller than standard garbage cans but take up about the same footprint.  We do not anticipate an increase in garbage, even though there is more capacity residents do not have to use it!

Cart sizes for homes with secondary suites and Non-Strata’d Fourplexes

My home has a suite. What carts will I receive?

Each property with a secondary suite will receive one set of three carts as follows:Non-Strata Fourplex and Secondary SuitesI live in a Non-Strata’d fourplex. What carts will I receive?

Each non-strata’d fourplex will receive two sets of carts to share between the units. You will receive two of the following sets of carts:Non-Strata Fourplex and Secondary SuitesWhat happens if I am not happy with this arrangement?

You are asked to test the size of the carts delivered to you for the first three months that you receive the new service. 

If after this time you are not happy with the arrangement, Fourplexes and homes with secondary suites can exchange the larger-volume carts for two (or four) sets of standard-sized carts.  If done during the free swap month there will be no charge to change out carts. After this time, a $25 change fee will apply.

For all Homes

Can I change my Cart Size?

You are asked to test the size of the carts delivered to you for the first three months that you receive the new service. You then have the option over the following month to change the size of your recycling and/or garbage carts free of charge; this is known as the “free swap month”.

You can still change the size of your recycling or garbage carts after the free swap period but a $25 change fee will apply.

Please note: the size of the organics cart cannot be changed.

Are there other cost implications if I increase the size of my carts and what are my upsizing options?

If you increase the size of your garbage cart, your annual waste collection fee will increase (this increase will cover the costs of tipping the additional waste at the landfill).

There is no increase in your annual collection fee if you upsize your recycling cart. As stated above, if you choose to change the size of your carts outside of the free swap month, a $25 exchange fee will apply.

The Below chart details upsizing options for Single Family homes:Upsizing Options for Single Family Home*If you swap two carts at the same time only one charge will apply.

The below chart details upsizing options for homes with suites and non-strata’d fourplexesUpsizing Options for Homes with Suites and Non Strata Fourplexes*If you swap two carts at the same time only one charge will apply.

Will I still be able to use garbage tags to put out an extra bag of garbage?

As automated service is introduced, residents will be given a three-month period to test out their carts. During this time, you cannot change the size of your carts but the City will continue to collect extra bags of garbage with $3 tags attached. 

After the three-month test period ends, extra bags will no longer be accepted on automated routes. 

Please note: Extra garbage must be in a bag — not a garbage can — with tags, and must be a maximum size of 77 litres. Maximum two bags per collection day are accepted. Please place any extra bags to the side of your cart, not on top.

What if I have unused garbage tags after my area automates?

After the three-month test period, unused garbage tags can be returned to the Service and Resource Centre, 411 Dunsmuir Street, or Public Works at 2020 Labieux for a full refund.

How do I request a new cart size?

Two months after service has begun you will be able to register your request to change your cart size. You can do this online at or by calling the Sort Toss Roll Hotline at 250-756-5390.  We will not be accepting change requests before this date as we would like you to try out your cart size (remember you can still use bags during the first three months of service). Cart swaps will begin after the first three months of service.

How many times can I change cart sizes?

There is no limit to how many times you may change your cart size. However, if you opt to change cart size outside of the free swap month, a $25 change fee will apply.

Can I downsize my carts?

The smallest cart we offer is 120litres in capacity. The recycling cart may feel a little large for people living alone. If you wish to downsize your recycling cart to 120 litres you may do so after the first three months of service. It is a good idea to try it out because you may find you have more things to recycle now you have an easy to use container!

If I choose to change the size of my carts, can I get them delivered?

Yes, Public Works will deliver your new cart(s).

I have a medical condition where I produce more waste, what do I do?

Please call Public Works on 250 758 5222 and we will assess your needs. Please note, only certain medical conditions qualify for this service.

Cart placement and maneuverability

How do I know where to place my carts?

Your carts will be delivered to the location where collection will occur. Please note this location on your street and return the carts to the same place on your collection day. Please ensure your carts are placed on your property and not on the street.

Help! I am worried the carts may be too big or heavy and I may not be able to move them.

The carts have been tested for maneuverability and ergonomic performance on a variety of surfaces and slopes. Safety and user friendliness were some of the key reasons why the City opted to automate the collection service; we think that rolling a cart to the curb is a great deal easier than carrying one.

We recognize that some residents with mobility issues who are living alone may struggle to move them out for collection day. For these special cases we will offer the “pull out/push back program”. Any resident signed up to the program will have their carts collected from a pre-agreed location on their property by the refuse collector, emptied and returned to the same spot. Residents can sign up to this program by calling Public Works on 250 758 5222. As part of sign up, they will receive a visit from a sanitation worker to check if it is a valid need and complete the sign up. This program is currently available and is known as the “carry out program.”

Help, I have a long driveway and don’t want to roll my carts all that way!

Residents who do not wish to roll their carts down a long or difficult driveway may choose to store them at the end of their driveway and move them to the edge of the roadway on collection day.

My driveway is at the top of a very steep hill. Can I place them somewhere other than at the foot of the driveway so they won’t roll downhill?

Please place your carts where they were dropped off. The drop-off crew will have assessed the likelihood of the carts rolling off your driveway when they delivered them. If this situation remains an issue, call the Sort - Toss - Roll Hotline at 250-756-5390.

Why is the clearance between, beside and above the carts so important?

The collection truck’s automated arm needs this clearance to operate. 1 metre clearance is required between and beside the carts and 3 metres clearance is required above the carts.

If I have extra bags of garbage during the first three months of automation, where do I place the bags?

Place them 1 metre outside either of your carts. Do not place them on top of your cart.

Will the Assistance in Garbage Service (Carry Out) program continue on automated routes?

Yes, the program will continue for approved residents in the automated areas. This service is only for residents with mobility issues who do not live with someone who is able to move the carts for them.

Cart maintenance and repair

Cart Identification and Maintenance

Who is responsible for cart maintenance and repair? What happens if my carts are damaged, lost or stolen?

The City will maintain ownership of all the carts and, as such, is responsible to repair and maintain carts free of charge. We will also supply you with a new cart if it is stolen or lost. For either service, call the Sort Toss Roll Hotline at 250-756-5390 or e-mail  Please note, residents are responsible for keeping their carts to a required standard of cleanliness.

Can we put locks on the carts?

No, please do not place locks on the carts.

Please don’t move address with your carts

If I move, can I take the carts with me?

No, each cart contains an electronic ID tag that identifies it as belonging to a specific property address. If you move, please leave your carts at your former address.

What information does the ID tag contain?

The electronic ID tags are used only to link the cart to a specific property. The tags do not give the City of Nanaimo any other information but the City can use them to help us in contacting you if we notice a problem with your cart.

I’ve just moved and there are no carts at my new address. What do I do?

The previous owner should have left the carts at that address. If that did not happen, call the Sort Toss Roll Hotline at 250-756-5390 or e-mail and we will provide a set of carts. 

Can I mark my address anywhere on the cart so it isn’t confused with my neighbor’s carts?

Each cart has a serial number stamped on the side intended to help keep track of the containers. You are encouraged to write down your serial number and store it in a safe place. If you wish to mark the carts, mark the inside of the lid. The cart is property of the City and we ask that you don’t permanently mark the body of the carts because we may need to redeploy them to new addresses.

Cart Contents, Sorting and Preparation

Do I have to line my carts?

You are not required to line any of your carts. If you choose to line your kitchen catcher or your kitchen waste cart, you must use paper or 100% compostable bags that feature the compostable logo.

Can I put bagged waste into the carts?

You will be able to fit more waste into the carts if you do not use bags.

You may only bag your garbage and organics (please only use compostable bags for organic waste). You must not bag recyclable material. Recyclable materials must be placed loosely inside the blue cart. The only exception to this is shredded paper which, must be placed in a clear bag tied at the top and placed in your blue cart.

What happens if I put the wrong material into a cart?

Incorrect material in a cart is considered contamination and is a big problem when it comes to recycling and composting the City’s waste. The new automated trucks are equipped with cameras that allow the truck driver to inspect each cart as it is emptied. If the driver sees incorrect materials in your carts, he will use the onboard computer on the truck to make a note of the contamination. We will contact you if we receive contaminated waste from your address.

What is considered contaminated material?

Contaminated material is any material that has been put into the wrong cart.

How do I dispose of pet waste?

We will permit a small amount of pet waste in your garbage cart. Please ensure it is double bagged and that the pet waste does not come into contact with the lid or the outside body of your cart. We will not permit large excessive volumes of pet waste.

What should I do if I don’t have enough material to fill the cart by collection day?

If you haven’t filled your carts by the collection day, we recommend putting it out regardless. This is particularly true during summer where warmer weather can cause waste to become odorous and attract wildlife.

Is there a weight restriction on the content of the carts?

Yes, the maximum weight of any of your carts is 100lbs, you should find this more than enough.

What can I do about odours in the carts?

  • Green organics cart.
    • Layer your food waste with yard waste to keep smells down.
    • You could choose to line your cart with 100% compostable bags that feature the compostable logo.
    • Line the bottom with newspaper to help stop materials sticking to the bottom.
    • Wrap wet food waste in paper such as power towel, a sheet of newspaper, a cereal box or a milk carton.
    • Store your food waste in the freezer until collection day - then put the frozen material in the cart for pickup.
    • All carts:
      • Keep the cart lid closed.
      • Spray some Lysol on the edge of the cart to deter pests.
      • Rinse the carts weekly or every other week with a water and vinegar mix. 

What are Nanaimo’s waste diversion goals?

  • Divert 75% of residential waste by 2020.
  • Landfill - zero kitchen waste, yard waste and recyclables.

Miscellaneous questions

What about my current bins and bags?

What should I do with my old garbage can, kitchen waste bin and yellow bag when automation starts?

Garbage cans – Your existing cans are your property and can be used for other home projects or extra storage. Some have transformed their bins into a rain barrel! Another great option is to use it to save up your depot items such as film plastics, glass, Styrofoam or refundables.

Green bin - You are welcome to keep your green bin and use it around the home, they make great pet food storage bins! Alternatively, please clean it and drop it off at Public Works at 2020 Labieux Road and we will make sure it is reused or recycled.


I have a cart that looks identical to the City-supplied ones. Can I use it?

No. The carts delivered by the city are manufactured to specific standards to ensure they can accommodate the rigors of the automated lifting arm. In order to ensure the same quality of carts throughout the city, all households must use these carts.

Can I continue to use my old garbage cans?

No, residences with automated garbage service must use the carts available from the City. 

How much green house gas emissions are being reduced?

We are reducing the number of trucks on the road because all materials can be collected with one truck. Because of this we will be reducing 64,000L of diesel fuel, which is a savings of 160 tonnes CO2e.

Which other municipalities have automation?

Victoria, Port Alberni, Vancouver, Surrey, Port Coquitlam, New Westminster, Port Moody, Burnaby, Prince George, Kamloops, Williams Lake,  Lethbridge, and many more cities!

For more information about automated collection services:

Call Toss - Sort - Roll Hotline: 250-756-5390


Last updated: July 20, 2018

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