The De-Stinkers

Ottawa’s Green Bin program is, if not exactly in full swing, then at least in semi-swing. There have been a few problems: 

  • The city suddenly realized that it was going to have problems meeting their contracted targets  with OrgaWorld Canada. One of the issues seemed to be that the bins are too small to collect the 80,000 tonnes a year necessary.  
  • A lot of homeowners are miffed about the entire program;  some refuse to use it; some have their own composters; some think the bins are too small; some just like to complain about everything the City does. But then there are other people who love their Green Bins a lot.  
  • Meanwhile, OrgaWorld, it seems, is not even operational enough yet   to process the waste that has been collected so far. They have until April 1st or the City can cancel the whole contract. I wonder what will happen then? 
  • There was some significant hue and cry about the extra $68 per year the city will be charging each household in taxes in order to pay for the bins. 
  • And, as the warm weather slowly creeps over Ottawa, people are starting to worry about what this means for their Green Bins. Maggots will move in to enjoy the goodies. The bins full of compost will start to smell; which in turn will attract rodents. As the weeks go by the bins will get kind of gross and people will become more and more reluctant to use their Green Bins. 

Well lo and behold, some smart cookies are capitalizing on this last issue and have formed a Green Bin cleaning company called Bin Aces Inc. They’ll come to your house or business with their magical cleaning truck and clean and disinfect your green bins, recycling bins and even garbage bins for a modest fee and on whatever schedule suits you best.

The coolest part of this company is that they are able to process and recycle the water they use for cleaning so that they can clean 200 bins using the same amount of water a regular joe would use to clean just two bins. They use only environmentally-friendly detergents and none of their waste water will contaminate our rivers, lakes or streams.

All cities with green bin programs have spawned these bin cleaning companies – not all of them are environmentally friendly and not all of their prices are this reasonable.

In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that while I’m not getting any benefits whatsoever from mentioning this company on my blog,  the owners of Bin Aces are related to a co-worker of mine, which is how I heard about them.

I wanted to acknowledge them because I like to mention local, small business-owners – especially when they’re first starting out and they’re doing something interesting. Also,  I don’t want to see the already beleaguered Green Bin program fizzle out because people will start to turn against their Green Bins when they’re no longer shiny-new and daisy-fresh…..which is likely to happen in the next six months.

So, while I know this is a very boring post for non-Ottawans, I’m hoping you’ll at least be amused over the fact that the capital city of Canada just recently got on board with a composting program – a good decade behind most other cities. Or, that you might be amused over the fact that Ottawa had about a thousand other cities from which to model a green bin program, and yet still managed to get so much of it screwed up.

Or, if you’re still bored, we can just talk about Paris some more.


25 responses to “The De-Stinkers

  1. I love how this post proves once again that regulation drives innovation. Without the city mandated bins there would be no bin cleaning business. If only the idiots in this country would understand this kind of thing.

  2. When I had a much larger yard, I had a compost pile, and it made for great potting soil over time, but the concept of putting that stuff in a plastic container in hot Texas weather makes me gag. I hope you guys can get it to work for you there.

  3. De-Stinkers / Green Activism / Paris
    I’m curious to know if you bought carbon off-set credits (or whatever they are called) for your trip to Paris.

    I have adopted a reduce and/or eliminate approach in my personal fight to reduce green house gas emissions. I will admit at this point I am not absolutely certain our fossil fuel burning activities are causing global warming. However, to be on the safe side I have reduced my fuel consumption as much as possible and part of that plan has made me very reluctant to fly anywhere.

    With respect to the environment and global warming: I think we all agree burning fossil fuels pollutes the air we breath, so in my mind the actions intended to fight global warming are good even if the only result is cleaner breathable air.

  4. I am a fan of the Ottawa green bin program. Apparently, my neighbours are too…it is rare to see a driveway without a bin on the curb on garbage day. Our household garbage significantly reduced once we started seriously composting. Since I’ve lived in both cities I will even say that I like it better than the Toronto program. I am also curious if Ottawa is meeting targets now that more time has elapsed and more people are “on board”. Our garbage reeks in the summer. I do not see the difference if it is stinking in a bag or in a green bin. The new bin cleaning idea information I appreciate. Good to know – plus I like the entrepreneurial spirit.

  5. very cool and entrepreneurial idea. i tripple love the new green bin program. i did a little dance and hugged the bin when it arrived in my driveway. very excited. and we are down to one, not even full bag of garbage a week. awesome! i find the little newspaper origami intersts are great and there hasn’t been any stinking issue in the house. that being said, i imagine there will be a little difference come july. but with all the cat litter in mine, i hope it will scare off any rodent snoopers.

  6. Dr. Monkey – I’m always impressed by the opportunities people can see, seize and make a success of. Especially those who see one long before it even occurs to most people.

    Geewits – Green bin programs have worked in places all over the world. It can get pretty hot up here too – not Texas not – but hot enough to make a rotting pile of garbage kind of gross. When you have a compost pile you usually make a point of not letting it get too wet and mixing the food scraps with leaves and stuff and turning it, etc. – you can’t really do that with a bin. We’ll see what happens when July hits.

    OC Driver – You know what? No, I have not bought carbon offsets and I really resent that you’re implying that I shouldn’t fly because I’m polluting the air by doing so. Not that it’s any of your business, but I think I do far more than my fair share in keeping my eco-footprint small. I don’t drive a car at all. I don’t eat meat. I live in a multi-family dwelling. I don’t have a dishwasher. I do 2 loads of laundry a week and wash in cold water. All my other appliances are energy efficient. I recycle everything. My consumption of goods is small and I’m very conscious of where and how the things I buy are produced. The last time I was on an airplane was 3 years ago. My travel in between has been done by train. So now I would like to take my daughter on her very first trip ever out of the country and introduce her to a bit of culture and a bigger world outside of the very small one she has experienced so far. And I too, have dreamed of seeing Paris for more years than I could tell you. So yes I’m going to get on a fucking airplane and fly there because so far they haven’t built train tracks over the Atlantic and they’ve pretty much done away with passenger ships to Europe so fuck off. Not that any of this has anything to do with green bins.

    MM – Why do you like this program better than Toronto’s? I think the issue with meeting the targets is ongoing. Even if they get everyone on board, the bins are just too small to collect enough garbage I understand. I hope they get it all straightened out.

    Smothermother – It’s so cute how many people are completely in love with their green bins! I hear some people have even named theirs. I’m curious about the cat litter thing and how they’re going to process that stuff. Because it’s basically some kind of clay, isn’t it? Mixed with water it almost turns into cement. We use the PC Green cat litter which is made of corn – it absorbs odors, clumps very nicely and can be flushed down the toilet. It’s also a lot lighter and you don’t need to change it as often and it’s perfectly safe for your cat because they often eat bits of it when it gets stuck in their paws.

  7. Just thought I’d chip in a say that I am really enjoying the green bin program so far. I’m amazed at how it has reduced what goes into the regular garbage.

  8. Thanks for the article on the Green Bin Cleaning business. I will sadly admit to not having used the bins but will definitely do so if I can have someone come by and clean them for me. How crazy am I to admit to this on a blog that is so very environmentally conscious.
    BTW……Have a great time in Paris with your daughter. I will look forward to the blog posts when you return.

  9. XUP wrote:
    “OC Driver – You know what? No, I have not bought carbon offsets and I really resent that you’re implying that I shouldn’t fly because I’m polluting the air by doing so. Not that it’s any of your business, but I think I do far more than my fair share in keeping my eco-footprint small.”
    I re-read what I wrote and I do apologize for not taking more care in presenting my comment. I have flown once in the last 5 years. I think my flight was more recreational than yours. I agree your trip is an important on many levels. It was not my intention to imply you should not go to Paris. I think you should go to Paris, for many reasons. I was just wondering about the silly credits. I didn’t buy them on my last flight as I think they are somewhat, darn I say it, stupid. In my mind the green bins connect to the ecology, the environment, and thus my thoughts wandered to the carbon foot print connected to flying.

    Perhaps my comment didn’t belong here (green bins) but I didn’t think of the carbon credits when I posted about your trip to Paris. Something about green bins inspired my comment. I’m sorry my post upset you, it was not my intention to make you feel bad about your trip.

  10. I’ve had a composter for several years at the cottage and never had a problem with smelliness – if nothing “animal” gets in, there’s no smell, well no disgusting smell anyway.

    Look at the bright side, Montreal still doesn’t have a green bin program, although they are “testing” it in a few areas. Patheticé

  11. I found the Toronto bins were flimsy and poor quality…not to mention half the size of the ones we have here in Ottawa. I also question TO’s use of plastic bags in the compost. Apparently 20% or more of TO’s compost goes to landfill because of plastic contamination (through diapers, bags etc.) Now you can buy biodegradable plastic liners, but I still think it encourages the unnecessary use of plastics. My parents stockpile plastic bags so they can be “green”. Last summer Toronto news papers reported that the compost generated from the program is unusable (too high sodium content that will kill plants) I have my fingers crossed that Ottawa’s program will be a success.

  12. The city I live in has been using green bins for at least a year (it could be longer but my memory sucks) and it’s great! Maggots are not such a big problem, certainly no more of an issue than when we tossed everything into the trash! I can’t speak to the cost factor, but every other ‘issue’ makes me roll my eyes. What is so different from seperating your wet waste (etc) into a green bin as opposed to a trash bin????? Seriously! We all got used to recycling, the green bin is a whole lot easier to get used to than recycling if you ask me. It’s just like everything, change takes a bit of getting used to but once it’s fully running people will find something new to complain about!

  13. Justin – That seems to be a lot of people’s experience. Good to hear.

    Salayna – Cool! I can understand your reluctance about using them if they’re just going to sit around getting nasty.

    OC Driver – Okay, no problem. I retract my FO. I’m all for living a more conscious eco-friendly lifestyle, but it really irks me when people (and I’m not talking about you anymore) waggle their finger at others for some practice that might not fit perfectly with a conscious eco-friendly lifestyle. In the same way that omnivores give me hell for eating fish sometimes though I’m basically vegetarian. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. If everyone just makes a few changes this year and a few more the year after that in itself will make a huge impact. If people are led to believe that it has to be all or nothing, they will opt for nothing so the militants are really doing their cause a disservice by being so strident about these things. Anyway, that’s what provoked my response – that and the fact that in many ways I do actually feel that getting on an airplane is not an environmentally responsible choice and if there was any other way to travel, I would.

    Jazz – Really? No green bin program in Montreal. I’m surprised. And ya, I think with composters you’re a lot more careful about what you put in there than people are with city green bins. A well tended compost pile will not smell at all no matter how hot the weather gets. Green bins aren’t well-tended compost piles – they’re just garbage bins.

    MM – Toronto’s bins are even smaller and flimsier than Ottawa’s? Holy jumpin’ – because the ones they rolled out recently here are already pretty small and flimsy.

    Betsy Mae – Yes, I’m surprised at the amount of resistance to these things considering a lot of cities have been doing this for ages. Some people just work too hard at trying to find holes to punch in things.

    Julia – Ya! Do you clean your own bin and/or would you hire a service to come and do it for you?

  14. I did a little happy dance when I first heard the news that Ottawa was considering this … glad it came to fruition and hope the City sticks with it long enough to reap the rewards.

    … see what I did there? 😉 lol

    Seriously though, the Nation’s Capital SHOULD take a leadership role in positive initiatives of this sort. Fingers crossed.

  15. I lived in Toronto as well when they rolled the green bin program out there. I also prefer Ottawa’s non-plastic approach, although it is a bit more inconvenient that you have to buy special bags if you want your bin lined. So far, we’re just reserving those for extra messy organic wastes.

    I actually like the bins in Toronto better – I find the Ottawa bins too big and heavy (but my household is only two people), although they appear to offer better animal protection. We’ll have to see what the neighbourhood raccoons come up with to defeat the latching mechanism! In Toronto we had to resort to bricks and bun-gee cords.

    For whatever reason the City-supplied kitchen bin doesn’t like snap shut properly most of the time. We’re definitely upgrading to a better one of those!

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  17. I don’t have a bin (yet). We are currently having heated discussions about where to keep them at the condo here (we are townhomes and some of us do not have a garage and cannot access the back yard in the winter due to snow). It will be interesting to find out what does happen in the summer, especially at places like mine, where one is not allowed to keep bins at the front and so smelly bins have to be trundled around the entire block of houses on garbage day.

    Anyway, if I do get a bin, I would clean it myself because that’s what I do. I also pick up litter in the hood. I’m not afraid of dirt.

  18. Quack – You are a very clever wordy person! And I agree completely – unfortunately we’re way behind almost everyone else in any sort of innovation.

    Paul – I think you can make some sort of newspaper liner to keep the bin a bit cleaner. The real problem with the Ottawa bins, I think is that they don’t have a grate at the bottom. The ones in Halifax had a grate about 4 inches off the bottom of the bin on the inside so that the liquids could collect down there and not pool around the compost so that it all freezes up in the bins in the winter and can’t be removed. The grates also help keep the smell down as the material is a bit drier. So, who are you, Paul? Thanks for finding my blog – do you have one of your own you’d care to link us to?

    Betsy Mae – Next week, for sure!

    Friar – Geeze, I hope not. A green bin program is a fairly simple thing in the grand scheme of things. I can’t, for the life of me, understand how they’ve managed to mess it up this much.

    Julia – I don’t think you have to be “afraid” of dirt to get your bins professionally cleaned. Maybe you just don’t feel like it. Maybe it’s just one more stinking chore added to your already big list of chores you have to do every week when you’d much rather relax after a long week at work. It’s like housecleaning. Who actually wants to do that? What a load off your mind to give someone a bit of money to take that chore off your hands. And you’re helping to support some hard-working entrepreneurs. It’s the civic minded thing to do, after all!!

  19. XUP wrote:
    “Paul – I think you can make some sort of newspaper liner to keep the bin a bit cleaner. The real problem with the Ottawa bins, I think is that they don’t have a grate at the bottom.”
    Using our bin at the moment without problems, and had not thought about potential liquid problems, yet. Sounds like an easy solution would be to drill a few holes in the bottom of the bin, just to let the water out. But then that might change where you choose to keep the bin as it would no longer be a sealed bin, you would have water leaking onto the area below the bin.

  20. XUP wrote:
    “So, who are you, Paul? Thanks for finding my blog – do you have one of your own you’d care to link us to?”
    No blog yet…thinking about it but I can’t come up with a catchy, original name for it! I have a deep interest in pedestrian/cycling/transit which is how I came across your blog (I can’t remember exactly how I found it), and have been reading it for a few months now.

  21. OC Driver – Rather than drilling holes in it, which I think would cause a lot of problems including cracking and the run-off you mention – maybe some other smart cookie could manufacture a little platform with holes in it to put in all the bins!! I don’t even want royalties if you decide to make them. A lot of people had problems in the winter with their bin stuff freezing solid in the bin and then they couldn’t get it out. If the bin is full and the stuff expands with freezing then there are even more problems. Draining the liquid also helps keep the smell down a bit in the summer. Something to consider.

    Paul – That sounds like a blog I would definitely be interested in reading regularly. Go for it. I recommend WordPress. Whatever name you come up with you’re going to hate within a few months anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I started out as Urban Pedestrian, which was cool because at the time it was part of the newspaper and talked about pedestrian/cycling/transit/urban infrastructure type stuff. Then I moved to Ottawa and away from the newspaper and it evolved into something different so I changed the name to ex-urban pedestrian, although I’m still a pedestrian. That got shortened to XUP. Are you in Ottawa? Pick a name that’s intriguing but not necessarily descriptive of what you’re blogging about so you don’t hem yourself into one topic area…because you’ll want to stray…often.