Green Bins to Focus on Food Waste

Green Bins to Focus on Food Waste, yard waste, Kingston, OntarioIn 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.

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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...

7 thoughts on “Green Bins to Focus on Food Waste

  • April 12, 2017 at 11:41 am
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    Yes,I fear that banning yard waste in green bins will result in it finding it’s way to Garbage bags. I just filled a green bin with twigs & branches fallen from city street trees – too large to put in my back-yard compost bin which takes food waste 12 months of the year.

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  • April 13, 2017 at 12:07 am
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    I was actually pretty annoyed when I saw this notice from the city. It feels like a slap in the face of folks like myself who are *using* their green bins as it was advertised.

    On almost every week in the summer my bin is full with about 1/4 food waste and 3/4 backyard waste. Living in the city with a small yard can generate a lot of random organic waste; little twigs that come down in the wind, leaves, and random garden/flower clippings.

    It sounds like the green bin program was *too* successful, so maybe the city should re-negotiate their deal or find an alternate company to do business with.

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  • April 13, 2017 at 10:49 am
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    There are times in the early and late summer where grass can grow quite a bit, requiring at least two mowings a week to stay on top of it, and sometimes I just can’t do that. Those are the times when I use the catcher on my mower and then dump all the clippings in the green bin — otherwise my lawn is littered with dead grass for weeks. I’ve still never thrown either food or yard waste in the garbage, literally 100% of my food waste always goes in the green bin. I’ve even put aside some grass clippings to wait for the next week to accommodate that.

    It would be quite awkward to transport yard waste to KARC using my car, to say the least, and I’m really not thrilled at the thought of doing it if it’s been sitting for a week or two. There’s people where this would also not be a viable option at all, for example because of to their vehicle type or lack thereof.

    If this is indeed financially motivated, I’d rather the city at least consider entirely banning yard waste from green bins, and in place, adding additional yard waste pickups. Rather than once in the fall, there could be something like 4 to 6 pickups between May and October. Question would be: considering the $55/ton savings, is there enough volume to justify the additional pickup costs?

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  • April 17, 2017 at 5:35 pm
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    I do think the city should have a yard waste pick up in the spring, but I don’t find it very difficult to take our bags to KARC either. We can easily put 3 bags upright in the back seat plus a couple more in the hatchback. Obviously not an ideal solution for those without vehicles or with lots of bags.
    I have family in other municipalities and they are surprised that we can put any yard waste at all in our green bins so we’re not doing too badly! Our kitchen bin is the last thing that goes in the green bin before we take it to the curb, so the new rule won’t change much for us.

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    • April 18, 2017 at 11:45 am
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      That’s a good tip, and it amplifies exactly what the city has been saying about making sure food waste is on top. Having the kitchen bin be the last thing that gets added before curbside collection is exactly the change that many households are going to make / struggle with.

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  • April 22, 2017 at 10:24 am
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    We dance to the ever changing tune of the waste collecting nazis. If something is even slightly out of place, they refuse to pick up the recycle at all. Even when they do, they are so sloppy about it that there is paper and container waste blowing over the lawns after every pickup day.
    Can’t they just pick up the damn garbage?

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  • May 3, 2017 at 10:06 am
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    Just faced my ongoing battle with the composting conundrum that is ‘Kingston’. Always put out my green bin with yard waste to the bottom (willow twigs mostly, never grass as it is mulched), compost to the top (wrapped in paper/put in a paper bag) and despite these efforts, repeatedly the compost gets picked up off the top by the collector and the rest sits in the bin for me to haul back to try again the next week. Today with the ‘new’ regulations, the collector actually finally picked up the whole bin (after 2 weeks placing it curbside with both put in as above) but left one of the city by-law notices saying the ‘collection staff MUST see food waste in your bin in order to collect it’…. I have sent a picture of the notice and a letter to the City expressing my dismay/frustration with the randomness of what this city’s attempt at being ‘Green’ is… Maybe my green bin needs to look like the picture on top to have it seen and picked up :)……

    Was in Ottawa last week on their collection day where the fine taxpayers there are able to put yard waste curbside in approved ways for weekly collection along with green compost (each placed separately), garbage collection is every 2 weeks…..Kingston needs to reconsider how the green waste is being contracted and look at how Ottawa is managing it…..

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