Residents placing their garbage out too early for pickup could soon find themselves with a $100 fine.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, council unanimously approved giving the first three readings of an amendment to the city’s solid waste collection, disposal and control bylaw.

The amendment will bring in a new rule that garbage bins cannot be placed curbside for pickup before 5 a.m. the day of collection.

Additionally, businesses can receive a $100 fine if the lids on their Dumpsters are not completely closed.

The amendment was proposed by city staff to reduce the chances of human-bear conflicts and bear deaths as a result of these animals feasting on garbage left out the night before collection.

“Municipalities can play a role in reducing bear deaths by making simple changes to existing bylaws,” City of Merritt planning and development manager Sean O’Flaherty told council. “Bears are most active at night and when garbage is placed curbside the night before the scheduled pickup day, it attracts bears away from their normal habitat.”

By restricting when garbage can be placed roadside for pickup, O’Flaherty expects  a 10-hour reduction in the amount of time these attractants will be left curbside. He said enforcement will be complaint-driven, and the temporary bylaw officer who will work night shifts during the summer will be on the lookout for any violations.

Conservation officer John Paquin said the amendment is one he supports.

“A lot of occurrences we have with bears getting into garbage occur in the middle of the night when there’s less human activity going on,” Paquin said.

He said the majority of the calls the conservation office receives in regards to bears are garbage-related.

This past year, Merritt conservation officers experienced difficulties with some residents who were resistant to heeding their advice to manage attractants such as garbage.

In speaking with his colleagues, Paquin said 2014 was an abnormal year for the high number of calls regarding bears and number of bears that had to be put down by conservation.

Nine bears were euthanized by the conservation office last year.

The bylaw amendment still needs to come to council for adoption before it goes into effect.

Chief administrative officer Allan Chabot said that he wants to bring a bylaw enforcement policy to council for its endorsement.

This policy would provide consistency by outlining the general guidelines to be followed for all bylaw enforcement, such as warnings for first-time offenders.

In a subsequent move at last Tuesday’s meeting, council approved the first three readings of the city’s municipal ticket information amendment bylaw as well.

This bylaw outlines fees associated with certain bylaws and was also given first three readings in order to add in the new fines associated with the amended waste collection bylaw.