Clear Garbage Bags for Kingston?

clear garbage bags, Kingston, OntarioIn March 2009, the City of Kingston launched the highly anticipated organic recycling program in an effort to reduce the amount of recyclable material ending up in landfills by 65 percent. About a month later, city officials announced that 35 percent of Kingstonians were using their green bins. You can interpret that number as either a solid start, or as a lukewarm reception.  Since then, while walking to work on recycling days, I’ve noticed that participation has somewhat improved in my neighbourhood, however it’s far from acceptable.  I can’t really speak for the rest of the city, but perhaps a recent recommendation to force Kingstonians to use clear plastic garbage bags is indicative of sub-par recycling across the board.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

Do you support the use of clear plastic garbage bags?

  • No. It's way too intrusive, and won't work. (763%, 61 Votes)
  • Yes. But, I'm already a recycling guru. (400%, 32 Votes)
  • Sure. It will help improve my recycling. (225%, 18 Votes)
  • Something else entirely. (100%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 119

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I am still surprised when I meet someone who doesn’t recycle, especially if they are of the same vintage as me.  Since elementary school we’ve been taught to abide by the three R’s, yet it seems as though many people just can’t be bothered to take the extra time to sort their waste.  While I was initially indifferent to the recommendation to use clear plastic bags,  I’ve come to support it as a way to unveil people’s recycling sins.  Sure it’s one step away from physically going through everybody’s trash, but if it’s the only way we can ensure non-recycling dinosaurs do their part, then so be it.  But let’s take it one step further.  Instead of using clear plastic, can we please move to using bags that are plant-based?  This will undoubtedly be a contentious issue, so please drop off some additional thoughts below.  Special thanks to Susan NYC for today’s photo.

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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

18 thoughts on “Clear Garbage Bags for Kingston?

  • August 23, 2010 at 10:01 am
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    I don't think that shaming people into sorting their garbage is the best approach. I feel that the best approach is to make garbage sorting easier.

    I was happy to hear that the city was adopting a curb-side composting program. The difficulty though is in how you collect your compostables around the house. Those "Bag to Earth" bags are expensive and gross lying around in people's kitchens. I wish we could use cellulose bags that look like garbage bags for composting. This way you could have a second garbage can sitting in your kitchen that traps wet stuff and the smells of the compost. It would be easier to transfer into our green bins as well.

    Also, our recycling program currently does not accept #1 plastics… I don't know about everyone else, but this means that the majority of my plastic packaging from the grocery store ends up in the garbage. I know I could just not buy items packages in this type of plastic but it's so common it's difficulty to avoid. If people have to throw out so much plastic, what's the motivation to recycle the stuff that is accepted?

    Overall at home we do a great job at making sure we recycle and compost everything we can. Our weekly garbage bag has become light and odourless because it's just filled with unrecylable no. 1 plastics and the odd things that can't be recycled or composted. It takes time to sort through everything though, so I can see how only 35% of Kingstonians compost and why so much garbage still ends up at the landfill.

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  • August 23, 2010 at 10:30 am
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    I really don't buy any excuse not to recycle or compost at this point. It takes very little effort. You don't need to purchase Bag to Earth bags – that's a gimmick (sorry Napanee). We use plain, old paper lunch bags and they work just fine. Or, don't use anything at all. When I clean out the fridge, I just take the tupperware straight to the green bin and dump it in.

    skevbo, you make a great point about #1 plastics. This has been a source of frustration for me. I finally decided to just stop buying my lettuce that way. I've gone back to the ways of the 80s and I buy a head of lettuce and wash and cut it and store it away in tupperware, the way my mom used to. It's a bit more work (like, a whopping 5 minutes of my time) but it leaves zero garbage and it actually lasts longer in the tupperware than in those terrible plastic containers from the store.

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  • August 23, 2010 at 10:34 am
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    The green bin is messy and gross but we do use it. The paper bags, even the ones with the liners get wet over time and raunchy. This time of year is terrible with the maggots and all. Winter time, everything gets stuck frozen in the bin A cellulose bag would be prefered. ____We compost, use the green bin, recycle and we end up with 1 bag of garbage / week, a lost of dirty diapers. (Family of 3) Having clear bags wouldn't be much good in my neck of the woods. Garbage needs to be in cans, due to the critters (racoons, skunks) in the neighbourhood. I live in Glenburnie.

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  • August 23, 2010 at 10:37 am
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    On the surface, a move towards clear recycling bags makes sense to me, however there are obviously many unanswered questions and concerns. There are a lot of personal effects that go into the trash, and most people would likely not want this stuff visible at the curbside. Further, as I have experienced on occasion when my green bins been too heavy or blue box has an unauthorized item therein, refusal to collect my recycling is a severe inconvenience as it piles up beyond the capacity of my bins, hindering future recycling efforts. By extension, if we moved to use clear plastic bags, I imagine the pains of non-collection would be equally as frustrating, especially if there is a hard limit on the number of bags placed curbside. For our household, we've also been trying to determine which one of our neighbors has been dumping their extra garbage bags next to ours. In that case, what happens if their bag is deemed uncollectable? Could a move towards clear bags increase illegal dumping throughout the city, instead of improve recycling? Again, lots of questions, but generally speaking I'd support it so long as the cost and efficiency are not negatively impacted.

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  • August 24, 2010 at 10:41 am
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    I'm in my early 40s, and we were not taught recycling in school. That initiative came after I was out of the public/high school system, so probably more education for adults is necessary, not just the young'uns.
    As for clear plastic bags, it seems very intrusive, very nanny state, but that seems to be the slide happening now, with privacy curtailed through inane proposals such as these bags.
    They can see what you buy, your medical waste, your gross stuff, yummers! Welcome to Kingsludge, population stanky!

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    • August 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm
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      If you'd really read that piece properly, you would have realised its limitations, i.e. the limited research they conducted in no way entitles the researchers to make such a ridiculously sweeping conclusion. It says more about the state of the discipline of psychology or the reviewing standards at that journal than about anything to do with environmental choices…

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      • August 25, 2010 at 9:14 am
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        What piece of research are you referring to? Doubtful I read it at all. Please submit a link if you can.

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        • August 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm
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          Harvey – it was a reply to 'That Guy' – that's clear from the comment threading, isn't it?

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          • August 28, 2010 at 7:38 pm
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            Ah…that will teach me to respond to comments on the backend. Yes, threaded clearly shows that wasn't for me. Sorry, and thanks for clearing it up.

      • August 31, 2010 at 10:44 pm
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        if i'd read it properly? should i go right to left? i don't see any valid criticism here – specifics might help.

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        • September 1, 2010 at 10:58 pm
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          By reading properly, I meant understanding what you are reading, assuming you have actually read the article and not just the abstract or the media reports. You are making the mistake of assuming that their conclusion is valid. It isn't. It was based on a rather lazy sampling of students at the researchers' own university and neither the methods nor what they actually found entitles them to make any such sweeping conclusions. Of course the astroturfers have been out in force with this one trying to convince gullible journalists and the people who can't be expected to know any better, that this article represents some kind of judgement on environmentalism, green politics, the left (take your pick). This is exactly what you were trying to persuade us of with your sarcastic comment: "Nice socierty [sic] we're moving to".

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  • August 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm
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    Garbage reduction has to come from people's purchasing habits. Don't buy eggs in #1 plastic cartons, buy eggs in paper cartons, then you have the choice to compost or recycle the carton. I asked the Recycle depot about #1 plastics (the non screw top version), they said there's no market for these types of plastics because they're too low quality. Even if the City collected #1's and sent them to a plastics manufacturer (or whoever might use them), the #1's would still go into a landfill. Solution – stop buying products packaged in #1 plastics.

    The City's waste reduction survey had 13 options, it's interesting that the focus by the public was on clear plastic bags. Results of the survey should be out soon.

    One of the areas that MUST change IMHO is commercial garbage. Municipalities do not a have a mandate to control commercial waste. Businesses pay more for composting and recycling than they do for landfill waste, this has to change but will require a provincial directive. Bug your MPP about commercial waste if you really want to see reductions at the landfills.

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    • August 24, 2010 at 3:40 pm
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      Fully agree with you on the commercial waste aspect. I mentioned my experience with it before, where we had an electrician in doing some minor work and he asked me if I wanted to recycle some of the product/bulb packaging as he can't afford recycling pickup. And he's small time in comparison to some of the businesses out there…

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  • August 27, 2010 at 12:32 am
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    I think that a lot of this skirts a central issue in the debate: Currently, the Kingston Recycling team is EXTREMELY picky in accepting your Blue/Gray bloxes.

    To increase adoption they should: Get rid of alternating weeks, just take everything every week and sort at the facility (the do this in Hamilton, and many other places), follow to comments of the previous poster and expand the range of things that are able to be recycled, and, if possible, being to take the cellulose 'plastic-like' organics bags (again, I think there's a limitation with how fast the degrade raised by Norterra Organics, but perhaps something could be done).

    But I remain steadfast on the first point: Collect it all every week and sort at the facility.

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    • August 28, 2010 at 11:17 am
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      You need larger volume to cover the capital cost of the equipment for on site sorting. Or better said to lesson the cost being the costs of recycling program are never going to be covered

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      • August 28, 2010 at 11:31 pm
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        Precisely. And to clarify; the sorting is currently done by hand. So, this would mean that to increase adoption by decreasing the barrier to compliance (i.e. make the process simpler for the end-user by collecting a mixed box every week) they're going to need to spend more money on the recycling program!

        So if the City is serious about this as a priority, then they will need to spend more money on it. It all comes down to how important that they (and hopefully that means we) view this program. It's just a matter of priorities.

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  • September 8, 2010 at 11:16 am
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    Today I watched the garbage collectors "empty" my green bin from my office window. Perhaps one of the reasons people aren't bothering to use it is because the collectors aren't bothering to empty them properly. How am I supposed to fill my bin next week when it's still more than half full of this week's refuse? People would likely make more of an effort if the city workers do the same: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kingstonist/49707296

    Reply

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