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Coquitlam, BC municipal workers are fighting to contract in garbage collection services, after a messy experience with contractors.

The workers, members of CUPE 386 are campaigning in the current municipal election to “bring it home Coquitlam”. And the public is behind their push, according to a recent poll.

The city’s five-year contract with International Paper Industries (IPI) expires next June. Coquitlam and neighbouring Port Moody signed the joint solid waste and recycling deal with IPI – the lowest bidder for the contract - in 2004. Coquitlam council had voted not to re-sign with the previous contractor, Canadian Waste Management.

Instead, service quality complaints began to pile up in both Coquitlam and Port Moody, with one Coquitlam councilor recently calling the service “incredibly poor”. Sloppy service has been linked to bear attacks in both communities.

Last June, Port Moody city council dumped IPI, voting to contract garbage and recycling back in when the contract expires. The city found it impossible to improve the privatized pickup service. Council worked closely with the city’s municipal workers, members of CUPE 825, to build the case for public waste services.

Now, Coquitlam city council is considering contracting in its waste and recycling services as well.

We’re dealing with the same issues Port Moody faced: garbage not being picked up, safety issues and no accountability to our elected council,” CUPE 386 president Merina Meyer wrote in a recent letter to the editor.

Complaints came to a head last year, and IPI promised to do better. But they haven’t been able to deliver.

Coquitlam city workers have had to clean up after IPI crews, and the city has hired another contractor to deal with missed curbside collection.

CUPE 386 is making the case that it’s cost-effective to bring the services back in-house, and there are no financial obstacles, given the city’s healthy reserve fund. The campaign includes bus shelter ads and an email campaign targeting city councilors.

The local is lobbying hard, and pressing candidates in the current municipal election to bring waste services home, following Port Moody’s lead and joining Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster and Port Coquitlam in offering public solid waste and recycling services. Voting day is Nov. 15.