The rat “epidemic” is attributed to lax sorting habits and reduced waste collection

WATERLOO REGION – Landlord Mark Stapleton stands in front of one of his student dormitories, points to a cluster of torn garbage bags on the curb and snorts in despair.

“Why didn’t you pick them up?” he ponders and is aware that another day of garbage has just passed.

“If it sits here two more weeks, do you know what will happen? It will end in the whole neighborhood. “

He sighs. “I leave it. It is ridiculous.”

Stapleton, who owns $ 15 million in student and non-student real estate in Kitchener and Waterloo, has been at odds with city officials and the area’s waste management division since garbage collection – excluding organic and blue box recycling – went from weekly to bi-weekly was changed.

It was a disaster, he says. Garbage is everywhere. Bags are left with no explanation. Worst of all … rats!

“The rats are out of control,” he insists, pointing to holes in the back lawn of his rented apartment on Peppler Street.

“The holes around my garbage cans are crazy. The politicians who live in Beechwood don’t see this stuff. The rat problem is developing into an epidemic! “

He estimates that he has counted “at least” 10 or 20 rats scurrying from a chewed garbage can on the side of a house through a hole in the fence onto a neighbor’s property.

The garage where garbage was stored was ransacked by the voracious rodents.

And tenants have noticed their presence again and again and are “afraid of opening the garbage can”.

The region says it is unaware of an epidemic, although “rat concerns are heard from time to time,” but insists the solution is simple: properly sorting garbage by diverting organic matter into green bins that are picked up every week be, rain or shine.

“We encourage local residents not to throw food waste in the trash, but to use the green bin,” says Kathleen Barsoum, the region’s waste management coordinator.

“The green bin has a weekly collection and you can use more than one if necessary. You can dispose of 80 percent of your waste using green bins and blue boxes. The additional benefit is that the material can be reused to make compost. ”

The problem – formulated by several angry landlords who are cleaning student rubbish off their properties at the end of the summer semester – is that there is no way to get students, many away from home, to do the rubbish properly to sort.

“Trying to get students to make green bins will just never happen,” says Stapleton, who tried and failed.

“They just won’t do it. It’s too involved and they don’t care. You are asking too much of a young person who has different priorities. “

Waste separation, lived experience has proven itself, ends up consistently at the bottom.

“The students posted it the wrong week and it’s sitting there,” notes Stapleton. “Then homeless people come by and tear it open and look for things. And the rats are coming. ”

He sighs. “There weren’t any rats at all until the garbage collection was reduced to every two weeks.”

While the region sends garbage inspectors to student neighborhoods – and has a free downloadable Waste Whiz app at – Barsoum says it’s ultimately the landlord’s responsibility to make sure it’s sorted, or a private one Company hired to tow it one way.

“We do as much as possible to educate: how to sort cardboard, how to recycle cardboard, how to use a blue box and a green bin. We hand in brochures and talk to them.

“It’s a difficult situation to sort this age group. But they know how. You grew up with blue boxes. ”

Regardless, she says, “We treat off-campus dormitories like any other dorm. There is no specialized service. “

That doesn’t go well with Stapleton, who assumes the region has a responsibility to support student dormitories.

“You can’t expect a landlord to be a babysitter,” he foams.

“The city benefits from having two universities so that they can trade. You should keep trucks running all day. It looks like Detroit out there. ”

News of a large chair set on fire during an unauthorized party on Ezra Street this week confirms his belief that the frequency of garbage collection is increasing, not – as recently announced – decreasing from four bags every two weeks to three must become.

“I wonder where this couch came from,” he notes sardonically. “If they picked up the damn stick, it wouldn’t be there to be burned, would it? Do your job and half the problems will go away. ”

He sighs. “There is no common sense at this level of government. None. The whole thing stinks, no matter how you look at it. “

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