Columnist David Johnson begins a new series of articles today. He explains:
Our home was chosen as being on a Kamloops City Composting Pilot Project pick-up route, so this begins a series of columns over the next year. I will be sharing the details, trials, tribulations and hopefully successes as we test out the service provided by the City. Columns in this series will be titled the same and numbered, so you can look back over previous columns in the series.
NOTE: If you are not on a predetermined pilot project route, you did not receive the mailers, or the bins. In that case, consider this series as introductory fodder for if and/or when the full program proceeds.
As #1 in the series, today we focus on the equipment and instructions we were given, the pickup schedule, as well as decisions in our home to kick it off.
I wrote a column a couple months ago about the composting program generally, detailing some of our household backstory regarding what we already do recycling and composting wise, as well as compost program costing issues. Feel free to read at the link to catch up.
At that time, we didn’t know we would be one of the test pilot neighbourhoods.
By DAVID JOHNSON
ABOUT A MONTH AGO, we received a mailer informing us our neighbourhood was cherry picked to take part in this pilot. We did have the option to refuse to be a part of it.
A couple of weeks ago our outside bin and kitchen bucket arrived with an instruction package. We were also invited to sign up online at a special City website set up for us pilotees, which has links to contact City staff if we have concerns or questions and feedback.
Included in the package was the pick-up schedule, which is still on the same days of the week as our zone for the usual garbage and recycling pickup, but we noticed something right off the bat; Our compost is picked up every week, but our regular grey garbage and blue recycling bin pickup has been changed to once every two weeks … on alternating weeks.
On the surface that seems fine, as our garbage is rarely half full anyway, but we will have to wait and see if this becomes a problem during peak times like Christmas. I suppose this was the compromise and, on the surface, it was probably a good decision; if all three were picked up every week, there would be an increased cost for staffing and equipment.
The focus seems to have been to make sure that the compost could be picked up every week. The last thing we would want is for the compost to sit and stew in its inherent goodness for two full weeks. Some young families may have a serious issue with diapers sitting in their garbage bin for two weeks, but we aren’t in that crowd.
We previously collected meat/bone scraps, and other compostables we don’t want in our back yard garden box (corn husks and cores, and pretty much any vege with seeds and food soiled paper or anything that decomposes too slowly) and took them to Footprints up by Walmart. Because we are involved in this pilot, we have decided to forego the Footprints program and let the City take this stuff.
The list of what we can put in our green bin is pretty broad:
All food raw and cooked including meat, dairy, fish, shellfish, oil and grease.
Interestingly, the instructions ask us to ‘soak liquid oils in paper towels before adding to the bin’
… we will see how that goes.
We can also add pizza boxes, paper takeout containers, any food-soiled paper, as well as any used paper towel and tissues. They even recommend wrapping foodstuffs in newspaper if its more convenient.
The real positive here for us is yard waste — leaves, cones, plants, and twigs and branches up to 1 inch in diameter and cut to one foot long are all allowed. Grass clippings (yay), hay, straw, animal bedding and wood shavings and popsicle sticks and chop sticks are also good to go.
We are coming to the time of year that the garden gets cleaned up so we are hoping this means less trips to the Bunker waste drop-off this year. Let’s see how many times we can fill this thin green bin.
What they don’t want is any plastic-coated paper, hardboard or cardboard, which is interesting. A few times now we have had to stop and look at a shiny paper or cardboard takeout tray or store bakery or deli box and ask ourselves ‘is that plastic’?
Obviously, they don’t want Styrofoam, straws, or plastic plates or cutlery, and specifically they don’t want ‘compostable or biodegradable plastics’, so no lining the kitchen bin with those compostable bags we were using for Footprints. Apparently, they don’t break down completely at the compost facility and ‘contaminates the finished compost’ … who knew.
They also don’t want fabric, paper coffee cups, metal or glass. Starbucks and Timmies coffee cups can be ‘rinsed and dropped in the blue bin’ it says … okay. No treated wood, rocks or dirt, and for obvious reasons no diapers or animal waste. This is where families who use diapers will have a problem; they are forced to use the garbage can, which is picked up every other week.
Because they do not require that paper bag liners be used in the bin outside … I’m not going to do that. We are going to just dump the kitchen bin out in the outside green one … slop and all.
I will be keeping an eye on the bottom of the green bin, and will report back on how it goes … or grows … ick!
Our approach is to use the outdoor bin how we assume most people would, once the program is extended to the whole city. I’m not going to wash it, rinse it out or care for it at all, taking the ‘it’s the City’s bin … they can deal with it’ approach many will auto-adopt. We will wait and see if once the interior of the bin gets pretty ripe, if the City will do something like hire a bin cleaner to do the rounds, or if they will backload the task to residents, and initiate bylaw rules to that effect.
In the short term, considering its storage spot is a floor below the master bedroom window, this could become interesting fairly quicky. Let’s see how long we last.
The little brown kitchen bin provided made us chuckle; it’s so small. Our usual composting bin in the kitchen is easily 3 or 4x’s that size. I’m not about to trek that little brown one out every day to the bin, so we will continue with the kitchen bin we use. Once every second or third day, depending on the contents is usually fine. We might switch our usual ugly kitty litter plastic pail to this nice brown one for coffee grounds and eggshells … good for the raspberries.
That’s it for now.
This series of columns over the next year will be about the interesting foibles we experience, as well as include the stories of a couple of our neighbours nearby, who are first time composters. Feel free to comment on your own experience, if you are also on a pilot route.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.