a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Jun, 2011

Operation Garbage Reduction continues, and, I washed my Green Bin!

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Ottawa|Yaktivism

So the City of Ottawa has increased the number and type of plastics we can throw in our blue bins. Hooray! Garbage reduction excites me. What can I say, I am an eco nerd!

A long time ago I posted about composting and the green bin. I would like to take a moment to make some additional observations now that we’ve been using it for awhile:

  • Good lord, do we ever create a lot of kitchen waste; mouldy stuff that’s forgotten in the back of the fridge, freezer-burned fish, uneaten sandwiches and crusts, etc. It’s unbelievable. And kinda sad.
  • After dinner we scrape our dishes right into the kitchen bin (the little brother of the Green Bin).
  • The Green Bin needs to be emptied almost every night, not because it stinks necessarily, but because IT IS FULL.
  • I have not been brave enough to put things like shrimp shells in our bin yet. Those get tossed in the regular garbage. Some people wrap them in newspaper and freeze them, and put them in the green bin the morning of pick-up. I am not this organized.
  • That being said, I’m tired of people complaining about Green Bin Stink. IT IS A TRASH CAN. YOUR TRASH WILL SMELL.
  • To cut down on smells and absorb some of the moisture you will want to cover food with dead leaves, newspaper, or plant matter. This sounds like a bigger deal than it really is. Lately whenever I dump some compost in the green bin I have been doing a quick weed of the front garden and throwing that stuff in there on top. It’s so satisfying.
  • For those who were concerned about the compost freezing to the side in the winter, you needn’t have worried.
  • Some of the things we’ve been putting in the bin include toilet paper tubes, pencil shavings, hair from hair brushes, dryer lint, paper towels and kleenex, flour and breadcrumbs (tainted from having rolled chicken in it) mouldy bread (which cannot be fed to the birds), the gunk that has collected at the bottom of the kitchen sink after the dishes are washed, lettuce soaked with salad dressing (a backyard composting no-no) and much much more. It’s amazing how much this baby can take.

Mark, who is responsible for the collection and taking-out of said garbage, has reported that our output has been reduced by HALF.

No squirrels or raccoons have discovered our bin. We are lucky on that front I guess. I’ve taken preventative measures so it doesn’t become a maggot incubator. How? I washed it. And it wasn’t a big deal. It probably took me 15 minutes. I used a couple of buckets of water, a few drops of dish soap, and an old mop. The water got dumped in the clover patch (see previous post about our clovered lawn) and everyone is happy. Including me.

Here’s a photo of the before. (I used someone’s hockey stick to loosen the mucky parts at the bottom. Shh.)

And here’s what it looked like after. (It’s hard to get into the corners, and there’s no way I’m sticking my head down in there):

green bin - not bad eh?

Not perfect, but not bad either.

How are you doing with your green bin? Loving it or hating it?

16 Responses to "Operation Garbage Reduction continues, and, I washed my Green Bin!"

1 | Elizabeth

June 17th, 2011 at 11:48 am


We have mixed feelings about our current green bin. Our neighbourhood was part of the original green bin pilot project, and the larger bin we were given to use back then was very sturdy and much more animal-proof, despite the lack of a two-stage latch. A simple bungee cord defeated all comers. In addition, it accommodated much more yard waste, meaning we almost never had to buy yard bags. Our current bin, used citywide, is flimsier and regularly broken into. The raccoons have discovered that to get in, all they have to do is tip the bin over, pry up a corner of the lid (yes, even with the latch secured), and scoop out the food items. We don’t have a garage to store the bin, so we’ve resorted to a complex system of bungee cords that make it much less convenient to use daily. And the smaller size means that before the end of a typical week, our bin is full. Still, it’s important to us to divert as much compostable waste from the regular garbage stream as we can, so we do use the bin as much as possible. Using the homemade newspaper origami bin liners in our little kitchen collector goes a long way to de-yuckify the whole process, leaving both bins much cleaner in the long run, and preventing wintertime frozen globs of compost.

2 | Nadine

June 17th, 2011 at 11:48 am


I had never thought about adding hair from brushes and pencil shavings to the green bin, but it does make sense really!
We also wash ours after each collection but use a few jets from the power hose to get all the stuff out from the bottom of the bin. A regular hose on the “jet” setting should probably do the trick as well.

3 | Hellcat13

June 17th, 2011 at 11:51 am


We love our green bin. I always mock the people who complain it smells – their garbage smelled like roses before?? It contained the same stuff! Rotting chicken bits will smell like rotting chicken bits whether they are in my garbage bin or my green bin.

We (2 adults, 2 cats, no kids) produce no more than a grocery store bag of waste per week now. It’s awesome.

4 | Marianne

June 17th, 2011 at 1:34 pm


I’d have to go with just “like” the green bin.

I love the idea and it diverts a lot of our household waste even though we’re not good about putting in all the paper waste (such as toilet paper tubes and facial tissues) that we could.

We had a nasty maggot incident last summer and stopped using it until the cold weather returned. We decided to try again this summer, but we’re not putting any meat into it this time around. We’re also trying keeping it outside instead of in the garage suring the summer months so that if we do have another maggot infestation we won’t be cleaning them out of the garage. In the 2 weeks since it’s been outside the racoons have already gotten into it once.

We’ve had some icky messes in the bottom of the bin when we havent’ had enough absorbent material such as newsprint in there along with the kitchen waste. We’re experimenting with some different things to make it work. I’m too cheap to spend money on the small paper bags you can get to line your kitchen garbage bin so I’m trying out using empy cereal boxes and saving paper bags from McDonald’s Happy meals (though that’s only about once every month or two).

5 | andrea

June 17th, 2011 at 1:56 pm


Good point about the icky messes Marianne. I also try to wrap the wettest and grossest bits in newsprint. It helps a bit, especially with meat. Other great “wrappers” include cereal boxes (as you mentioned), and rice and flour bags. I save those for the worst offenders (such as boiled chicken bones. Urgh.) We’ve never had a maggot issue. I’m not sure if it’s because we’re wrapping our food waste, keeping it covered, or keeping the lid closed at all times…

6 | andrea

June 17th, 2011 at 1:56 pm


I am also too cheap to buy the bin liners. I just can’t do it… it is, after all, a garbage can. It’s meant to get dirty, right?

7 | milkfacemama

June 17th, 2011 at 6:18 pm


Like you, we dump our green stuffs directly from the Kitchen bin to the Green bin – no liners or paper bags. A cup of water in the kitchen bin when empty has been a great way to keep things from sticking. It gets used a lot and has reduced our landfill waste considerably. If solid waste pick up gets reduced to every two weeks we will not suffer for it so long as green bin pick up continues weekly.

Yes, it stinks but so did the old garbage solution. Maggots are present as well. Our GB is nicknamed “The Maggot Factory.”

Overall, while not pleased with the Orgaworld contract and the implementation of the program, we are happy with the GB.

8 | Cath in Ottawa

June 17th, 2011 at 8:07 pm


We love our green bin – love it. We’ve had no problems with maggots or animals. We do freeze any meat/fish skin/excessively smelly stuff – sometimes I forget and leave it in the freezer by mistake but with pick up every week (hurray!!) it really doesn’t matter. I don’t like to pitch stuff into the bin directly, but we don’t buy liners – we use any paper bag, cardboard box, disposable coffee cup etc that we have on hand.

9 | Denise

June 18th, 2011 at 8:43 am


We love the green bin because it has significantly reduced our garbage. We buy the small bin liner bags because we think it is worth it. It seems to help minimize the odour in the kitchen. With just two of us (so far), we produce one small bin liner bag full of waste weekly.

10 | Glen Gower

June 18th, 2011 at 11:06 pm


Loving it, thanks for asking.

11 | Laura

June 19th, 2011 at 10:29 am


Love it. Yup, despite the occasional “enviropillars”, using the green bin reduces our weekly garbage significantly. Totally worth the effort.

12 | DA

June 19th, 2011 at 9:32 pm


If you still get the Ottawa Citizen delivered you can very easily make liners from newspaper that make it super easy to empty. Check out …


It is not even as hard as in the video because you don’t even need to cut because the Citizen is using square paper now.

13 | Black Bin

June 19th, 2011 at 10:00 pm


I’ve been backyard composting for more than 15 years (since I bought a house). Other than the energy and resources to produce and deliver the bin to my house, the compost I make uses no energy or water. The same cannot be said about the green bin compost industry. Back yard black composters are much much greener than green bins. Yes, you can toss bones, grissle and pizza boxes into green bins but lets face it, most of what is “diverted” to green bins could go into a backyard composter. Oh and you get nice rich compost for free.

If you’re serious about the environment, get a black bin.

NB: Diapers are a huge landfill issue. Maybe the Green Bins should become Poo Bins? That makes sense.

14 | neeroc

June 19th, 2011 at 10:55 pm


I’m using my green bin, but I’m sad for my yard composters. We used to keep 3 humming along nicely, now I just cannot justify yet another bin/sorting of our garbage so everything compostable (and quite a bit of paper goods like tp rolls) goes to the green bin instead.

15 | Chantal

June 21st, 2011 at 2:05 pm


I love my green bin, and my backyard composter. Now that summer is here I have been separating things to go to the backyard.

I clean my green bin with an old toilet brush. it does a good job of getting into the corners. I store the rinsed off brush in the garage. Works like a charm (when I get around to doing it.)

16 | Stacey

July 4th, 2011 at 10:59 pm


Tonight I’m not loving it. I went to empty the kitchen bin and discovered so many maggots you could measure them by the inch. I don’t buy the small kitchen paper bags-seems expensive especially since I like to empty it everyday, but I did start buying the larger liners for the green bin. We don’t get newspapers and hardly any flyers so there isn’t any of that to put in. Maybe if I put my few cardboard boxes in that will help. I’m wondering if putting a cup of dry clumping kitty litter in the bag every couple days would help. The misture in that bin is unbeleivable right now.

I’m certain that tonight I’ll be having nightmares about the inches of maggots.
I’m not generally squeamish about much, and I have even got used to the handful of maggots, but this was just gross. THANK GOD they seem to be contained in the bin as we have 4 days until pick up.
I’ve gone to great effort to get the family on board and composting, but I’m not sure if I’ll be keeping this up.

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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