9 things you may not realize about your green bin
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 1:29PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, March 14, 2017 6:28PM EDT
It’s taken a while, but it seems Waterloo Region is starting to go gaga for green bins.
The bins, which are used to collect organic waste and keep it out of the Waterloo landfill, have been in place in some neighbourhoods for more than a decade.
While they haven’t been used as much as was hoped for when they were first introduced, uptake has been slowly on the rise.
It’s increased significantly this year, largely due to garbage pickup in the region being cut back to once every two weeks.
As of last week, the region had given out 11,000 of the bins so far in 2017 – nearly double the amount of a typical year, and enough to exhaust its existing supply.
That means plenty of people around the region are coming to grips with the bins. They’re trying to figure out what can be put in them, what can’t, and how to keep them from giving off a bad odour.
Here are nine things they, and you, may not realize about the newest addition to your curbside collection routine:
It can take over most of what you put in the garbage. Kathleen Barsoum, a waste co-ordinator with Region of Waterloo Waste Management, says the average household should be able to put about 50 per cent of its waste in the green bin, with the recycling box picking up another 30 per cent.
It can be used for things that you might not put in your own composter. “It will take your meat bones. It will take your fats,” Barsoum says. “If you fried some bacon for breakfast and you’re cleaning out your pan, that bacon grease can go into the green bin.”
Pet waste is OK too – but you should take some precautions with it. Kitty litter, soiled paper from bird cages and other pet waste items can go in the green bin. According to Barsoum, anything of that nature should be put into a paper bag first out of consideration for the people who will be picking it up. “When they pick up the green bin and they dump it in, they don’t want to breathe in cat litter,” she says.
Plastic, on the other hand, is a no-go. It doesn’t matter if it’s forks and knives or Ziploc bags full of food waste – no matter what, plastic will not compost and therefore should not go in the green bin. (Ziploc bags can go in blue bins, though.)
Paper coffee cups should also stay out of green bins. Paper coffee cups used to be accepted as part of bin waste, but waste management workers found that there were too many of them coming in. Now, the recommendation is to recycle paper cups – or, better yet, choose reusable ones instead.
Even unhealthy foods can be disposed of healthily. Making microwave popcorn? That paper bag you’re cooking it in can go in the green bin. So can any fast food containers that aren’t Styrofoam. Plastic bags for potato chips, being plastic, cannot – but any unfinished chips or crumbs are as green bin-friendly as the rest of your diet.
You don’t have to cram everything into one bin. While one bin has been dropped off at every home eligible for green bin collection, you don’t need to worry about having too much waste to fill the bin. Additional bins are available at the waste management buildings on Erb Street West in Waterloo and Savage Drive in Cambridge, and for sale at some hardware stores and other retailers.
Green bin waste doesn’t stay in the region. Like several other municipalities, Waterloo Region sends its organic waste to a special facility in Guelph, where it composts over a four-month period before being distributed to farmers, who use it for soil.
There are ways to cut down on foul odours. Worried about your green bin smelling bad, or attracting fruit flies? Barsoum recommends adding some wadded-up paper to the bin to keep odour issues at bay. If that’s not an option, you can also spray the inside of the bin with a mixture of 50 per cent vinegar and 50 per cent water.