Hating On The Green Bin

I’m a stickler for voting in every election, because I think it’s important, even though these days it can feel more like choosing the least of evils, or negative voting, where you vote for one party not because you actively like them but because you’re so terrified of somebody else. We have a municipal election coming up on Monday here in Ottawa, and even though my riding is borderline acclaimed (incumbent Alan Hubley running against two other guys who a) don’t even live in my ward, and b) have no political experience whatsoever, and c) both registered on the very last possible day purely because they didn’t want there to be an acclaimed situation, which is honourable, but does not necessarily make you a valid alternative); and in the mayoral race, who is going to vote against The Beloved Jim Watson, anyway.

But! While doing my basic due diligence, which involves reading the interviews with each candidate in the paper and visiting their websites, I learned something surprising: there is an alliance of candidates in this election whose specific platform is to abolish the green bin composting system.

It’s not a small group, either. Something like 13 candidates across the city are running on this platform, which would also bring back weekly garbage pickup. Here’s a good article outlining their platform and naming all the members – none of whom are incumbents.

I’m personally strongly in favour of a green bin program. Yes, it gets messy and gross sometimes. Yes, I often find myself on summer evenings at the end of the driveway with a bottle of bleach, trying to kill maggots. Yes, we keep a smelly bin thing in our garage to keep it away from raccoons and squirrels, and that means we can’t always actually park in our garage.

But when I think about all that waste going to landfill…ugh. Remember a few years ago when the city decided it was no longer in their financial interest to pick up some plastics? And how putting margarine and yogurt containers into the garbage just felt wrong? So wrong, that there was a massive backlash and they had to start picking it up again?

For me, getting rid of the green bin now would feel the same way. I couldn’t imagine putting a banana peel or apple core into the garbage, now. I like that our garbage output is less than a bag a week. I like it that the city is looking for non-landfill options for organic waste, and other stuff too. The idea that we take all our waste and just throw it in a big hole and cover it up is getting stranger and stranger to me all the time.

The folks running on this platform are trying to make it an economic issue, and there seems to be no doubt that the city loses money every year on the program – both because they have to pay a base fee to have the waste collected, and because low participation in the program means they pay a penalty for not hitting their waste goals. But cancelling the program would also be expensive, and I’m really not sure what the landfill strategy would be after that. With all the compost waste now going back into the landfill stream, what would the plan be? The Carp landfill has already had its close date extended several times, and there just isn’t another location right now that can take our garbage. I can’t imagine the expense of opening a new landfill somewhere, or even paying fees to truck our waste to an existing landfill somewhere else, or the environmental issues involved in extending the life of the Carp dump yet again (not to mention the quality of life issues for those who live near it, who have been promised that “it’s closing soon!” time and time again).

What do you think? Are you a green bin fan or would you love to see it abolished? Will you be voting for any of the candidates running on this platform – or will you be negative voting against them? I’m really curious to hear what the general public thinks about this (or at least, the very small sampling of us who read this blog) – even if you’re not from Ottawa, let me know what you think about compost programs in general.

14 thoughts on “Hating On The Green Bin

  1. I am a total green bin fan! I’ve never once had maggots. I buy the not-very-expensive paper bags that fit in my green bin and I put a layer of paper on the bottom, so my green bin is clean inside – not messy at all.
    In the summer, if I have food that might attract maggots, I wrap it in newspaper and freeze it. No big deal. It’s only for a couple of days, because green bin pick-up is every week.
    Our green bin and our recycle bins eat up most of our waste. As a result, the waste of our family of four doesn’t even fill one garbage bag every two weeks.
    Those who complain about garbage limits are just not trying, and all of this waste has to go somewhere. Guaranteed NO ONE wants it in their “back yard,” so we all have to do as much as possible to keep the number of “back yards” needed to accommodate it to a miniumum.

  2. AMEN LYNN! And I can never believe it when people are actually willing to go on the radio and talk about how terrible it is to have to hang onto smelly garbage for two weeks – to me that’s just a great big admission that you’re lazy and / or can’t follow basic instructions, and that’s not the kind of admission I’d want to make on the radio.

    Here’s the thing: YOUR GARBAGE SHOULDN’T BE SMELLY IF YOU’RE PUTTING THE RIGHT THINGS IN IT. For us, like you, this now adds up to about one small bag per week of miscellaneous unrecyclable packaging. That can wait two weeks. That can even wait a month as far as I’m concerned.

    And our green bin really doesn’t get too bad either. We still backyard compost, so we don’t even fill up the green bin every week. We use old cereal boxes and flour bags, etc. so the mess is compartmentalized. IT’S JUST NOT THAT HARD.

    My dream is that all 13 of the above-mentioned candidates get soundly beaten and then this issue may finally quiet down.

    And YES I’m voting!

  3. mdavis94538

    We are faithful green bin users too, and although we get weekly trash pickup we could quite easily go for 2 weeks. The only thing that is ever full is the recycling bin, and then only occasionally, and sometimes the green bin gets full if we do a lot of yard work, but that can always wait anyway.

    I think making this an economic issue is a mistake, but perhaps this a facet of a bigger problem that governments have these days – they want everything they do to be profitable. Governments are not meant to be profitable – they’re meant to take in money via taxation, and redistribute it where it’s needed for the greatest good, with a long-term view. Maybe I’m being too idealistic, but that’s how I think of it.

    1. mdavis94538

      Oh, yeah, and we never have maggots, but then again the kitchen pail goes out to the green bin on Sunday night and gets picked up on Monday, so that may be an artifact of two-week trash pickup.

      1. How big is your kitchen pail? I have to empty ours into the bin in the garage at least three or four times a week, so stuff has a chance to stew in there a few days before pickup.

        1. mdavis94538

          I’m betting it’s the same kind as yours – it’s probably less than a cubic foot.

          The difference is probably that you guys actually cook with real produce, meat, etc, whereas we’re largely a processed food family (sad but true).

  4. smothermother

    When I read the title of your blog I thought “Uh oh! I’m going to have to get all preaching on Lynn about the virtues of the green bin!” Then I remembered your love of recycling so I was perplexed. Phew! I don’t have to get preachy!

    I did a happy dance when we received our green bin. Love it to pieces, magots and all. And don’t get be started about the happy dance when we got green bins at work! Woot woot! But I digress. The only thing that sticks out our garbage is the styrofoam from meat packaging if we forget to rinse it. Which unfortunately is way too often.

    I truly don’t understand why people don’t use the green bin. I try to be open minded, but the only thing that comes to mind is that they are ignorant and stupid. Which really isn’t that open minded, is it? But it’s so easy. Seriously. You put food stuff in a little bin and then you put that into a bigger bin when the little one gets full. Is that really too complicated?

    This is turning into a ramble going no where. All to say that I think the green bin is an important part of our waste reduction in the city and we would be idiots to get rid of it. And I checked to see who was the idiot candidate in our riding and I had never even heard of them, so they don’t have much traction here. Thank goodness!

  5. what a step back it would be to take away this program! I love my green bins, and we also freeze anything that could attract maggots in the summer and that works great!

    my sister in law was recently visiting from B.C. and she was in awe of all that we can compost here. they have nothing like it where she lives! it made me even more proud to live in Ottawa!

    this, as an election issue, is crazy!

  6. I use the green bin. I can’t say I love it, but I don’t mind it. I’m not a huge fan of twice-a-month pickup though. I don’t think we are big consumer of… anything, really (we cook from scratch, no frozen meals or cans) but our bins (black and blue) always seem too small and our garbage bags stink. I wish we would address the core of the issue, i.e. manufacturers’ apparent need to use so much plastic and paper for everything they sell.

  7. Wow…this is surprising to me. I don’t think I’ve read about any candidates down here suggesting getting rid of the green bin. We’re dedicated users, too.

  8. A year ago, we moved from the burbs to a downtown apartment in a 100 year old brownstone. We occupy the 2nd and 3rd floor. To reach our green bin, we must not only go down the stairs but we must step outside and walk all the way to the back of the building where the communal garbage receptacles are. I was concerned that after a while, we may get lazy and revert back to the “everything in one bag” attitude. I am happy to report that we are still huge fans of the green bin. It just feels wrong to not sort and divide our waste. The repercussion of accumulating garbages in landfill sites is much bigger than just the inconvenience of everything green bin related (smell, maggots etc…). Great post Lynn!

    1. I have to say I’m super impressed at your commitment given the fact that I often grumble about having to walk the green bin stuff all the way to the garage (the HARDSHIP). Great job!

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