Some people are celebrating. Others are grumbling. Regardless of your outlook, Green Bins have arrived in North Grenville. A new waste management plan came into effect on February 1, and with it, came the municipality’s first ever program aimed at diverting organic waste from the landfill.
Ontario plans to ban all organic waste from landfills by 2023. Although this ambitious plan is a little light on details, municipalities are nevertheless faced with the task of redirecting organics. Many are instituting Green Bin recycling programs, or considering doing so. Ontario will be the third province to ban organic waste from landfills, after Nova Scotia in 1998, and PEI in 1999. Aside from the provincial requirement that organic waste be diverted from landfill, redirecting organics makes financial and environmental sense. Over 50% of all waste sent to the landfill in North Grenville was organic material that could be composted. Backyard composting is not an option for everyone. In the five years between 2013 and 2018, North Grenville residents generated over 300 tonnes more garbage.
North Grenville’s Green Bins will be collected weekly. Bag tags are not required for Green Bins. Bins were delivered to all residences in mid-January. A small kitchen bin was delivered in addition to the Green Bin for curbside pickup, as well as a guide with instructions for the Green Bins and the new collection schedule.
Two of the biggest reasons people have for not using Green Bins is that they are dirty and smelly, and they attract animals. The municipality has some tips to help avoid both of those scenarios, and these are included in an informative brochure that accompanied each bin.
Reaction to the Green Bins’ arrival has been mixed. Some people, already well into backyard composting, are happy because the Green Bins can take many items that you shouldn’t put in your average backyard compost pile or bin, including dog waste and cat litter, as well as bones, meat, and shellfish. Some residents who have been unable or unwilling to have backyard composters are happy because they can now reduce the amount of garbage they put at the curb for collection by using their Green Bin.
January saw a flurry of Green Bins changing hands on social media, with those who wanted nothing to do with the program quite happy to pass their green bins off to other residents willing to fill them. Some expressed surprise at the small size of the bins, and others frustration with the mechanics of them.
In 2018, Ontario generated over 3.6 million tonnes of food and organic waste. Approximately 60% of that was sent mostly to landfill. When food ends up in the landfill, it starts to decompose, and releases methane. It also contaminates the ground and water with lechate. Organics also do not decompose quickly, as they require oxygen to break down. The landfill is not an ideal decomposing environment. Composting needs to be an end solution though. Before it gets thrown out, we need to think about food waste, and how to redistribute food to people and animals.
At the end of October 2020, Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks, Jeff Yuek, and the Ontario Government committed over $5 million to help food rescue organizations, First Nations, and other Indigenous organizations buy storage space, freezers, and refrigerated trucks under the Surplus Food Redistribution Infrastructure Program. The Federal government has also set targets for reducing food waste. More than half of Canada’s food supply is wasted each year, and $49.5 billion of that wasted food is avoidable. Food is wasted from farm to plate, during production, processing, distribution, retail, food-service, and also at home.
Another part of the Made in Ontario Environment Plan, includes a plan to transition the Blue Box Program to a producer responsibility model. In short, the goal is to take the cost of recycling off of users, municipalities, and tax-payers, and putting the responsibility for the cost of recycling onto the producer. Producers will begin to be responsible for recycling in January 2023, and by the end of 2025, producers will be fully responsible for providing blue box services all across Ontario. Furthermore, each municipality, no matter how small or remote, will have some sort of blue box recycling program under the responsibility of the producer. Currently the cost of the recycling system is unsustainable, and is expected to rise significantly.