Those of us in the Niagara region will soon experience changes in our waste management. Specifically our previous 2-bag/container trash limit will be reduced to one. However, blue and grey bins will be collected weekly instead of rotating biweekly collections of one bin. This is good news in my opinion! However some are complaining about the changes.
When we moved to the region six years ago, full-on recycling was a huge adjustment as we'd moved from an area that had no recycling at all. Everything went in the trash. It took a few months for everyone to get accustomed to the change. But we did. As everyone else will with these changes.
Green Bin Usage is the Issue
I heard one radio news report stating that region-wide green bin use was only at 30%. Just by looking down the road on collection day I would say this is accurate. Failing to use the green bin for organics waste dramatically increases a household's weekly trash. According to the US Composting council, 74% of landfill waste is organic. This isn't just a problem with the quantities we're sending to landfills, but the composition of what we send to landfills. Organics in nature will break down releasing carbon dioxide, however that carbon dioxide that results from a natural breakdown (such as backyard composting or forest floor decomposition) is part of nature's short-term carbon cycle. Plant photosynthesis will clear out this carbon dioxide. However, in a landfill, decomposing organics release carbon as methane, which has a far greater impact on global warming than carbon dioxide. One of the BEST things we can do personally to reduce our impact on the earth that sustains us is to compost our organics waste. We can't compost meat-based waste in our backyards, but if our municipalities will do so, by all means we should send them all we can and eliminate all the organics we possibly can from our landfills.
But the Green Bin Stinks!
Yes, it does. Just as much as a garbage bag/can that contains animal fats like chicken skin, etc. There are lots of ways to reduce this stink, and to reduce all the other unpalatable aspects of organics recycling. Here's what we do:
- Backyard composting. If you garden, start backyard composting. Only place vegetable and fruit scraps (never any meat scraps or eggs or fats) in your backyard compost bin. Add a great deal of brown matter -- newspaper, leaves, straw, etc., to create a healthy mix and stir it up. Removing fruit and vegetable scraps from your home daily will prevent fruit flies from flocking to your kitchen for those scraps. In the Niagara Region you can purchase a backyard composter from the region for up to 80% LESS than you can buy one in a store.
- Freeze your organics. Keep a small, kitchen-sized compostable liner or a brown paper lunch sack in your refrigerator freezer for all the animal wastes. Grease from cooking, bones, skin, leftover meat -- all of those things that stink to no end when rotting in a garbage can or the green bin can go into the freezer where they are not going to stink. On trash day, toss the bags in the green bin and take it to the curb. This eliminates maggots in the warmer months, along with the stench of rot - eliminating varmint attraction as well. Add newspaper to the bottom of your green bin to absorb the moisture that results from the frozen waste thawing. Our household of five rarely has more than one bag of this waste each week. Often we need two weeks to fill it, but we do compost our own vegetable and fruit scraps.
- Rinse your green bin out every week during the non-frozen months.
It's not just for food waste! Cat litter can be composted in the Niagara Region. Since I foster cats and kittens, this is a boon for us! Without composting of cat litter, we often exceeded our trash limits. Ever since the region started composting cat litter I've never exceeded our limits.
Napkins, paper towels, tissues (that haven't been used to blow one's nose or the like) can all go into the compost bin. My in-laws reduce kitchen bin odors and leakage mess by keeping a countertop bin in which they place ONLY paper towels and paper napkins. When that bin is full, they fill their under-counter bin with the paper wastes before adding food scraps. Those papers absorb the moisture from their kitchen waste. They don't backyard compost and I've noticed they never have a problem with fruit flies from their under-counter organics bin.
Cooking grease -- fats skimmed off broths and the like can be let to congeal in a container (like an empty tin can, then scraped into the compost bag.
Recycling is so messy. I'd rather just pay the fee
You'd rather throw your money away, eh? If that's truly your position, there's no reasoning with you. On the other hand, if you are simply adjusting to multiple bins, there are ways to deal with the mess of multiple recycling bins, waste cans, and organics bins.
Weekly pickup of both gray and blue bins is going to make a big difference in the messy factor. What we've done in our home to manage this mess is still applicable.
Have a central recycling location. If keeping all the recycling in a garage or outdoors is not an option for you, keep your large recycling bins at a central location indoors. Our basement works for this. In the bathrooms and kitchen we have small rubbermaid bins for recycling under our sinks. In our powder room, a small plastic sorting bin works to contain the small amount of recycling for that room (soap boxes, TP rolls, plastic wrappers). These small bins are taken to the large bins in the basement when full and sorted there. This is our youngest children's task. We use a single plastic shopping bag hung on a hook to place all the plastic bread and milk bags that accumulate. When it's full, it's tied and placed in the gray bin.
Remember to rinse all your recyclable containers. Empty cans, jars, and milk bags will create a stink and attract bugs or other pests. Keeping a small sorting bin under the kitchen sink makes this easy.
On another hook, we keep a narrow newspaper bag sleeve to collect batteries. When full enough, I drop it at any of the orange bins local to me (for me that's in a local pharmacy. For others this may be a roadside orange bin or Staples store location, among other places.) I used to hold onto these for up to a year waiting for the annual household hazardous waste recycling days, but orange bin distribution has eliminated the need for that wait. Using rechargeable batteries has also dramatically reduced our battery consumption as well.
Another change to note is that grass will no longer be collected with the green bin.
Grass is easily composted in your yard. If you don't have a mulching mower, reducing the days between mowings and raking out any accumulation will facilitate breakdown right on your lawn.
You can use grass clippings as mulch, too. Yes, you'll get some weed seeds in there but weeds can easily be pulled when they're young.
You can also put your grass clippings in your backyard composter.