In 2009, green bins began appearing curbside throughout Kingston as residents started to change their habits and experiment with organic waste recycling. At the time the new program was rolled out, Kingstonians were urged to place both food and yard waste in their green bins, as opposed to disposing of these items in the trash. From the outset, the ultimate goal of the city’s organic waste recycling program was to divert as much as 65 percent of the city’s waste from the landfill. If you’ve been tracking our progress along the way, you may already know that we exceeded our waste diversion goal for 2018 way back in 2014; a nod to mother nature for the assist stemming from post-ice storm clean up. Suffice it to say that even though each and every household does not make regular use of their green bin, organic recycling has had a positive impact on waste diversion efforts in Kingston.
Looking forward, the city recently announced a big change to the Waste Bylaw, which effects the organic waste recycling program. Specifically, as of May 1st:
… collectors must see food waste in the bin to collect it … it is okay to continue to put small amounts of yard waste in your green bin – just make sure collectors can see your food waste when they open it, either loose or in a paper or BPI-certified liner.
This change is one that Kingstonist had previously socialized with our readers by way of asking whether or not the city should ban grass clippings from green bins. While an overwhelming majority of respondents confirmed that they would support such a move, the city is clearly taking it one step further by targeting all yard waste. Granted, yard waste is not being banned from your green bin, however the amount of yard waste will be limited to “small amounts”. I interpret that to eventually mean less than half of the contents of your bin, or less than the amount of deposited food waste.
The rationale behind adjusting the bylaw is financially-driven in that it costs $35 a tonne to process yard waste, and $90 a tonne to process organic waste. Since the city already accepts and recycles yard waste at the Kingston Area Recycling Centre (KARC), and promotes the use of backyard composting, targeting the more costly form of waste makes sense when saving dollars and cents are a high priority. However, financial savings should not be the only consideration, as practicality and convenience must also be taken into account. In that respect, not everyone has the time or ability to transport smelly and dirty yard waste to KARC. Moreover, some may not be able to compost on their property. Accordingly, this change in focus could affect the rate of participation in recycling programs, and it may result in some people reverting to wasteful practices.
Personally, I’m conflicted about the updated bylaw. I understand the reason for the change, but question whether it will actually result in more food waste making it’s way into green bins. Our household already diverts 100% of our food waste to green and compost bins, so there’s really no room for us to improve. I suspect we are not alone in that other diligent green bin users will be in a similar position. On the yard waste side of the equation, we are hip to the composting game, however capacity is often an issue immediately after the Spring melt, and when leaves begin to fall in autumn. Although I routinely make trips to KARC to dispose of yard waste, I also place generous amounts of it in our green bin. Truthfully, the vast majority of what goes into our green bin is in fact yard waste. Changing our habits will undoubtedly create more work, and pessimistically-speaking, it could result in some leaves finding their way into our garbage bags.
Looking ahead to collection day, I’ll be keeping a very keen eye on collectors whose role as curbside waste inspectors just got a lot more complicated. Here’s hoping they show a tremendous amount of leniency, else the City of Kingston’s switchboard will be lighting up with complaints from disillusioned tax-paying recyclers.
Photo credit to Nick Saltmarsh.