I’ve had a number of people call or email me to complain about the green bin program which requires residents to separate organics such as food scraps from the rest of their garbage. Here’s one of the exchanges.
I am writing to you as I am very upset by the green bins that are a disaster. Bears drag these bins and break them open very very easily. I refuse to use them as they are bear attractants and I happen to love bears being in their own territory! We are using an indoor composter that works beautifully!
Why oh why were we not consulted before they bought these useless bins? I personally would have liked to have discussed a variety of options which would include HEAVY DUTY bins that cannot be opened or buy a load of indoor composters which could be bought in bulk by SCRD for a reduced fee. The property owners would have to spend a percentage of this cost for purchase.
Why was there NO notification PRIOR to this insanity?
I hope you can explain how this happened.
The organics curbside program has been in the works for almost two years. It’s been reported on in the newspapers, and I published a long article about it in my newsletter and on my website in May 2019, with updates between then and now. Before that there was a great deal of publicity about the organics curbside program in the Town of Gibsons, which they instituted over two years ago. (And the amount of garbage they send to the landfill was reduced by 45%.)
If you are using an indoor composter that’s terrific. But most people are not. The vast majority of people were putting all their food scraps and food soiled paper in the garbage. Which, as you point out, attracts bears—whether it’s in a garbage can or in a green bin. It also attracts birds and other wildlife at the landfill. And the wildlife eats food scraps mixed in with toxic garbage and glass, which is horrible. Our goal is to get all food waste out of the garbage stream and the landfill. A ban on commercial organic waste will follow, so all restaurants (for example) will have to properly dispose of food waste.
Food waste that’s landfilled creates methane gas which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Diverting the food waste to a composting facility means that we reduce our methane emissions, and the waste is used to create a useful product—topsoil.
We also have very limited space left in our landfill, so the more we can divert, the longer we have until we have to close the landfill and find some other (likely very expensive) means of disposing of our garbage.
The green bins were the best option we could come up with that was easy to carry to the curb while large enough to handle all the organics from a family for a week. They are not bear proof. Frankly, there’s not much that a determined bear can’t break into. The gold standard for bear proof garbage cans is solid steel containers set in concrete foundations, which is not an option for wheeling to the curb.
So far 80% of local residents are using the green bins each week, and apart from the first two weeks, there have been very few reported bear problems. (Of course it’s late in the year, so we’ll have to see how things go in the spring.)
Your solution of an indoor composter is ideal, but they are not common. Many residents compost outdoors, which is great, although that can also attract bears.
I’ve had a lot of people complaining and telling me what everybody else SHOULD do. Yes, everybody SHOULD compost and recycle and ideally not buy stupid plastic packaging in the first place. But there’s a big distance between what people SHOULD do and what they ACTUALLY do. As taxpayers we could save billions of dollars in health care spending if we all took public health advice and ate healthy food, didn’t smoke or drink, exercised daily, kept our weight down and avoided dangerous activities. It makes total sense. But do we do this? No.
Locally, we are trying to create a change in garbage behaviour and it’s an up hill battle. Tossing things in the garbage can is easy and it feels like it’s free until the property tax bill arrives, and then people get mad.
Universal programs like garbage pick-up or health care do discriminate against those people who are super responsible, because they end up paying more than their fair share. But it’s still the most efficient way to deliver a service.
PS I could ask staff to look into a bulk purchase program for indoor composters. Or perhaps one of the local nonprofits would be interested in a partnership. I’d like to learn more about how they work, how long they last, and whether they can be recycled. It would be more than ironic if we bought a bunch of composters and they all ended up in the landfill in 5 years time.