City going green with organic bins

Foul odours turn off some
Toronto implements green bins for residents
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Oct. 18/2004 for Town Crier.)
This is a look back at to an article I wrote five years ago as the city now grapples with how to roll out organic waste collection for apartment dwellers…

Councillor Jane Pitfield and Geoff Rathbone, the director of policy and planning for Toronto’s works department, introduce the green bin.

You couldn’t have helped noticing a big, 45-litre green bin delivered to your door recently, in preparation for the city’s new organic garbage collection program starting in the former Toronto, York and East York the week of Oct. 18/04.
Inside the bin are two things: an info sheet telling you what can and can’t go into the green bin and a small beige indoor container for kitchen scraps, which can then be dumped into the outdoor bin. This system was implemented in Etobicoke two years ago and in Scarborough 15 months ago. North York will not participate in the program until fall 2005. 
The new program is meant to be as user friendly as possible, said Richard Butts, director of the city’s solid waste management collection.
“We designed the program from the curb in to make it as easy as possible,” he said. 
There’s a long list of waste products that can be put into the green bin, but some of the most surprising items include diapers, sanitary products and animal waste. Eventually the treated organic product will be mixed with peat and sand, and sold as fertilizer. 
This raised a question for a Leaside resident, who attended a community meeting on the green bin program held by Don Valley West Councillor Jane Pitfield. The gentleman asked if it was safe to put the organic mix that contained animal waste and human waste (from diapers) back into the soil.
The province sets guidelines through the ministries of environment and health, and the treatment facilities are frequently tested to ensure the city is meeting standards, said Geoff Rathbone, director of policy and planning for the city’s works department.
People can make the collection process cleaner by lining the kitchen bin with a plastic grocery bag, which can then be tied and tossed into the large outdoor bin. During the treatment process, the organic waste is liquefied; the plastic floats to the top and is removed.
Another issue that concerns people is the foul odour associated with organic waste collection.
“Do organics smell? Absolutely,” Butts said. “But we have tried to mitigate that in a number of ways. Number one is weekly organics collection. Number two is with a sealed container, and three is to allow organics in plastic grocery bags.” 
Starting the week of Oct. 18, the city will empty the green bins weekly. Regular garbage, which should be reduced by about 30 percent, will be collected every second week. Recycled items will still be collected every two weeks. For example, if you live at Mount Pleasant Rd. and Eglinton Ave., on Oct. 21 your organics and garbage are collected. The following week, on Oct. 28, organics and recycling are picked up. And it will alternate this way. 
Look at your collection calendar to find out details. If you don’t have a calendar or have any questions about the green bin program call 416-338-2010 or go to


One response to “City going green with organic bins

  1. Jane Pitfiled is now longer a politician and Geoff Rathbone is now general manager of the solid waste management department. And Richard Butts is now a deputy city manager.

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