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One Bag Per Household Limit in Kingston

Garbage BagIn March 2009, after approximately one year of anticipation, Kingstonian’s began to receive green bins as a part of the city-wide organic recycling program. Council initially projected that these environmentally friendly vessels would help reduce household waste by as much as 65 percent, thereby slowing the long-term exhaustion of available landfills.  Since then, our household has rarely missed a week of filling our green bin, while we’ve noticed a drastic reduction in the number of garbage bags we place at the curb.  In fact, we’ve gone upwards of four weeks without having to put a single bag of trash out for curbside collection. Nevertheless, a quick glance around my neighbourhood hints that not everyone is regularly using their green bin, and so we have a ways to go before we reach the lofty goal of 65 percent waste reduction. In an effort to help us get there, and encourage the use of our trusty green, blue and grey bins, the City of Kingston is moving towards a weekly limit of one bag of trash per household.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:

Do you support the one bag per household initiative?

  • Yes. One bag/week is doable. (62%, 93 Votes)
  • No. One bag/week is unreasonable. (21%, 32 Votes)
  • Sure. It will help us get greener. (15%, 23 Votes)
  • Something else entirely. (1%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 150

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Passed by a narrow margin of 6 to 7 on November 1st, Council’s amendments to the solid waste by-law are as follows:

  1. properties offered access to the green bin program be limited to one container, bag and/or bundle of garbage per self-contained residential unit per week without bag tags;
  2. two bags of garbage without tags be allowed on the first collection day following New Years Day, Victoria Day and Labour Day;
  3. residents with medical conditions that result in the generation of extra garbage be provided with 52 bag tags subject to a letter advising of the need from their medical practitioner being approved annually by the Solid Waste Manager; and
  4. staff be directed to promote “Giveaway Days” when residents are encouraged to place reusable items at the curb for others to take at no cost.

With consideration to the forthcoming changes outlined above, Council moved away from previous proposals to force Kingstonians to use clear garbage bags, as a means for waste collectors to police whether or not recyclables were being mixed in with trash.  However, city staff is now considering another recognition program that would reward households with a gold star for consistently and appropriately managing their recycling and waste.  Can you imagine being the only one on your block without a gold star?

What are your thoughts on weekly limits on the number of garbage bags per household.  Do you think that these measures will make a difference and help us reach a 65% reduction, or will they result in an increase in illegal dumping?  Otherwise, should we consider going one step further, following the example of cities such as Ottawa, who are moving to biweekly trash collection and expand acceptable materials in our green bins?

Thanks to ceegee-ceegee for today’s trashy 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...

27 thoughts on “One Bag Per Household Limit in Kingston

  • November 14, 2011 at 11:12 am
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    Yet again, one less service for the same amount of property tax…

    I've made a point of remembering which elected officials voted FOR its citizens, by endorsing "educating" people about recycling instead of forcing this 1 bag limit, and those who voted to screw us over yet again.

    And when the next elections come up, I'll make a point of actively supporting those who voted against this and work against the ones who voted for it. (and so far, I've back the winning horse in each of the past three elections). >:-)

  • November 14, 2011 at 11:14 am
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    Do the folks who selected "unreasonable" take full advantage of blue/grey/green bins?

    I must confess I also frequently drop off at Value Village/Salvation Army which is a better option than blue/grey/green/garbage. It's one of the other R's (reuse).

    • November 14, 2011 at 11:43 am
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      While the poll just opened, I am also rather concerned with those who've voted that the new measures are unreasonable. The move is definitely an inconvenience for some, but a quick look around my neighbourhood (and likely yours) shows that a majority of those who put out more than one bag of trash don't put out full recycling bins, or use their green bin. If these same households were putting out heaping recycling/green bins, then perhaps the two-bag argument would have some merit.

  • November 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm
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    My disagreement with the one-bag limit is that it doesn't take into account family size. There are five of us, and while we pack our green bin every week, and put out at least two blue/grey bins each time, the fact is that we consume more than the senior lady who lives next door. She has no problem meeting the limit, and while we can put out two bags she sometimes allows me to put a second bag on her drive – thereby effectively evening out the disparity in our household population. But with a single bag limit, that option goes away.

    So for my family this will amount to an additional tax (bag tags) despite our best efforts to deflect as much as possible away from the landfill.

    • November 14, 2011 at 5:54 pm
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      That's a really good point, and it's something that our followers on Twitter were tweeting back and forth earlier today. Should the City of Kingston take into account family sizes before imposing blanket restrictions on the number of bags allowed per household? I think that's a pretty reasonable request, albeit difficult to manage. My household consists of two adults and a cat, while kitty litter makes up a majority of our waste. Certainly a family of four people, and a pet or two, would have much more waste than us. Is it impossible for them to reach the one bag limit? I don't think so, but I can certainly see both sides of the coin here.

      I would love it if this decision sparked more of us to evaluate waste with an eye towards making smarter decisions at the grocery store.

      • November 15, 2011 at 1:55 pm
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        We're a family of 6, and often don't even put out one bag of trash. If we do, it's never full. It's totally manageable if you limit your trash intake first, and recycle most of everything else. We've often put out two full recycle bins and no garbage bag. I'm not even sure how we'd go about generating more garbage!

  • November 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm
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    I like the idea of reducing curbside waste, and using the recycling and organic programs. Part of me wonders if illegal dumping will increase as a result. Or perhaps people will put their extra garbage bags in front of another house and letting that owner deal with the excess. The intentions are good and noble, but I fear the unintended repercussions.

  • November 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm
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    At our house one bag is totally doable. We currently have weeks where we don't need to put out trash at all because we don't have a full bag and because we use the green bin and our own composter the garbage is not too stinky to keep around. But we are only two and I wonder if larger families will be able to meet the limit. Like MuddyBrown I worry we will see more dumping. What's the point of my efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle if folks are just going to sneak their trash over to my house in the middle of the night or drive out to the country and toss it in a ditch? Luckily the last time someone did that to me they actually left mail with their name and address in the top of the trash bag, so back it went.

    • November 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm
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      About a year or so ago we noticed that someone was regularly placing an extra bag of trash at our place. This went on for weeks, and finally I'd had enough when the bag did not get picked up and we were left to get rid of it ourselves. The next week we put a sign on our front lawn asking the person(s) responsible to refrain, and that put an end to it. Had a neighbour approached us and asked permission, we would have likely obliged. I still wonder who it was, and whether they think we were unreasonable for asking them to stop.

  • November 15, 2011 at 8:55 am
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    I think one bag is completely doable for most of us. It will encourage more people to make proper use of recycling and the green bin. It's something we need to do if we want to stop filling up landfills. We can do this, as other places have. I would like to see more people composting in their back yards– and this includes leaves– I think it's ridiculous to see 20 bags of leaves at the curbside to be hauled away by the city– think of the time, gas and pollution this entails. Finally, let me end my rant by saying that we should outlaw leafblowers– what a waste of time and money, and they are so damn noisy.

    There, I feel better now. Thanks everyone.

  • November 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm
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    Here's an interesting new development: We missed a garbage pick up two weeks ago due to a death in the family and sudden trip out of town, and since then have had an overflow of bottles and cans, so we grabbed a cardboard box at the grocery store to collect the excess while we waited for the next plastic pick up. Today was the day and we were greeted by a note from the collectors saying that they didn't pick up our plastics because they weren't in the proper container. Seriously? So, I need to go out and buy yet another plastic item in order to get my recycling picked up? How is this encouraging us to recycle? In addition to this, they also left behind a full green bin with zero explanation. Our guess is that they couldn't be bothered giving it a little shake to get the leaves out. I've been a supporter of the city's efforts to reduce our garbage but now I'm feeling the same way as Jake. What are our tax dollars paying for exactly?

    • November 18, 2011 at 3:07 pm
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      So I wrote the city about this and they responded today:

      I'd like to offer you an explanation for the curbside guidelines, specifically the need for City of Kingston issued bins. The sorting of material happens right at the curb, therefore our boxes are made to hang on the bar that runs along the truck. The collector has his hands free for sorting the bin simply slides along the length of the truck, making the deposit of the materials into the proper areas a safe and efficient process. The collector is responsible for the material he deposits into the truck and therefore he is check the material at the same time, to ensure that item is clean and an accepted item. The wide bin also allows for them to safely see the material so if there are jagged edges or broken glass, they are readily aware it's in there.

      Without the restrictions on recycle bins, we would be faced with many different sizes, shapes and weights to contend with. There are many stops each day on each route, and having these guidelines streamlines the collection process, making it uniform throughout the city.

      As you mentioned, we do accept the material, free of charge, at the Kingston Area Recycle Centre, Monday through Friday 8am – 5pm and Saturdays 8am – 4pm. Another option for you, is to use your off week box for additional material at the curb, for instance, blue box material in your grey box. Therefore you can have a blue box and a grey box at the curb with your cans/plastics/glass."

      I guess that makes sense but I'm still not sure what we're supposed to do. Our grey box is full too…

  • November 16, 2011 at 1:02 pm
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    I would like to address the apparently negative and accusatory comments about not seeing neighbours putting out green bins and therefore contributing to unnecessary garbage. I don't use the green bin (the one time I did it was left for being too heavy) – I compost all that material. Composting at home puts even less of a strain on city resources – so poo-poo to all you nosy green bin using neighbours and shame on you!! ;-)

    • November 16, 2011 at 10:51 pm
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      Don't forget though, there are a lot of things you can put in the green bin that can't go in your yard composter!

  • November 18, 2011 at 9:14 am
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    plain and simple it is a hidden tax. It's your money or your labour (in segregating and preparing your waste) that the city is taking from you without consent and without reward.

    My thoughts are that this is another way we punish the wrong people for the 'crime' of making garbage: why not tax the producers of the items that end up in garbage bags? Some corporations put WAY too much packaging on their items, or make ever smaller portions in plastic/metal containers. Wouldn't it be interesting if we could unpack our products from their myriad wrappings at the store at which we purchased them?? That might change a few things. This off-loading of responsibility to hard working, tax paying, over-burdened citizens who have almost no control over the amount of waste that corporations build in to their products is shameful. Let's stop pointing fingers at each other, and start looking at who really causes this mess?

    • November 18, 2011 at 10:34 am
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      Regarding in-store removal of packaging, the last few times I have purchased shoes, I left the box/packaging in the store. It’s a small thing, and certainly not acceptable for all types of merchandise (electronics etc.), but every little bit helps send the message back to the source.

      I can see your point about this being a hidden tax, but I tend to think about this as one of those “pay now or pay much more later” situations. Sure Kingstonian’s are faced with the increased responsibility of sorting waste and what have you, but the end result aims to reduce the impact on and expense of landfills. The alternatives are to either pay someone else to sort your waste, or forget about making recycling a priority and filling out landfills at an increased rate.

      • November 19, 2011 at 3:27 pm
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        I agree about leaving the shoe boxes behind, however, I have been told recently by different shoe stores in the area that they will not allow you to return shoes, even with the receipt, if you do not have the box.

        • November 22, 2011 at 9:56 am
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          Rarely have I ever returned a pair of shoes after buying them. I suppose the message here is that you have to be sure that you are going to keep your purchase, and hope that there are zero defects you missed in the store, before you consider leaving your shoe box behind.

  • November 19, 2011 at 9:37 am
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    It is not a 'hidden tax'. The aim is not to make money but to discourage waste. And yes, that should be happening at every level of society, and it is to some extent. Businesses are also facing a raft of incentives and schemes to reduce waste and packaging around the world. Not enough, it is true, but the idea that this is all a conspiracy to hit the hard working taxpayer is, err… garbage.

    There is no way a family needs to throw out more than a bag of garbage a week. If you think you do, you should take a long, hard look at what you consume. There's no need to have much food waste at all, but if you do composting is easy (and worm composting is educational and fun). Just about everything else is recyclable, so I am wondering what the people who say that they need more than one bag are throwing away…

  • November 19, 2011 at 10:52 am
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    Although it is tempting to leave packaging at the retailer tehre is always teh question " What if I have to return the item"

  • November 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm
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    While I can live with the one bag limitations, I wonder about families with babies or small children who will have waste from diapers, which cannot go into the green bins. These can add up during the week and I don't think it is fair to add more tax onto families for that reason.
    Also, the green bin program is only available to people in houses or apartment buildings with less than 6 units. They also don't have the program in businesses or schools. Just wondering if maybe that should be a next step in getting greener instead of having this one bag limit? Maybe city employees should be putting their waste in green bins at work? Do they have them at City Hall so that they can dispose of their lunch leftovers, tissues, etc. there?
    While I understand the intention behind this new initiative, I think that maybe we should look at some of the bigger waste contributors before adding more tax onto citizens.

  • November 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm
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    Like everyone else, the 1 bag is more than likely "doable." I have a family of four with two dogs and one cat. 90% of the time we only use one bag per week. A majority of that comes from the animals and school lunches. The school my two children attend doesn't allow 'lunch bag' waste, it all comes home with them. This definitely changes the way we shop. I could see this being an issue for larger families though. A guy I work with has a family of 7, I'm sure there is no way he could ever abide by the 1 bag per week.

  • November 21, 2011 at 2:51 pm
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    Let's have "curb side" free days where someone can pick up your discarded treasures/junk that you can't find a home for.
    Even broken hockey sticks can have another life staking tomato plants.

  • November 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm
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    "Give your Stuff away free day" runs in some communities about mid May and was on May 14 this year. I made an event for Kingston on Facebook and invited some people to do it and a few did, though it was raining and not a really good day for it. I myself tried again the following weekend and almost everything I put out disappeared. Will try it again this coming may, and I think that City staff may have a mandate to promote curbside treasure hunting now. I'll have to review the City's website. The date will probably be May 12 for 2012.

    • November 22, 2011 at 10:02 am
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      Growing up in a small rural community, large item pickup is strangely a popular event. So much so that you see people driving around with trailers in tow, searching for whatever suits their fancy. I recall this one guy in particular who would stop to harvest the upper portion of BBQs, leaving behind whatever he could not sell as scrap metal. I am sure he made quite a bit money judging from how many BBQs he had piled up.

      My only concern with large item pickup is ensuring that people don't abuse the system. There's no problem with people putting stuff out to the curb with a free sign on it, even if they happen to do so outside of the large item pick up dates. The problem is when unwanted goods are left there for excessive periods of time, and begin to junk up the neighbourhood. If no one wants to take your stuff, and it's still there beyond say 72 hours, you should consider getting rid of it through other (legal) means.

  • December 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm
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    There is a danger for the local community that comes along with the reduction of garbage and waste removal services provided with the city's taxes. Of course, it is assumed that in return for our property taxes, we, as homeowners will receive a proportionate level of services in return. Whether or not Kingston residents are actually getting their proportionate share of services rendered is questionable. New, and very expensive, construction projects have put a huge dent in the city coffers, and citizens are left holding a massive bag of debts. Now we cannot even afford to pick up our waste, a clear sign of the mismanagement of our hard-earned resources. A one bag limit would increase the level of illegal dumping, and threaten the look and sanitation levels in crowded residential areas.

  • April 7, 2019 at 6:23 am
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    I think that the system is basically unfair because it limits the number of bags to one per home. Some homes have one person living in them; some, like mine, have five adults. I think that it should be one bag for every two persons.

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