a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Apr, 2013

The rather unglamorous subject of garbage and composting

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!|Ottawa|Yaktivism

This was the scene at the curb this morning:


We had three different containers of compostable goods (two that were full of yard waste and one that was mostly kitchen-related compost), one black box (cardboard and paper) and one big old cardboard box leftover from our move.

It’s hard to imagine that once upon a time all of this would have gone straight into the landfill, isn’t it?

As many Ottawans know we’ve been living in a new world of garbage pickup. Household garbage is picked up every two weeks with recyclables being picked up on alternating weeks.

Now that it’s Spring and our big green bin has thawed out I’ve realized that immediate action needs to be taken and it will need a good scrubbing sooner than later. The green bin needs to be washed at least once a year to keep the yucky things at bay. I mean, you COULD skip it, but then you run the risk of it becoming unbearably gross.

The way I see it, you can either:

a) Use a pressure washer
b) Get out ye old garden hose and an old mop and give it a good scrubbing that way.

Option B is what I normally do because we don’t have a pressure washer. Sometimes I use a small bit of dish soap and a bucket of hot water, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Either way, I strongly recommend you wash your green bin on the grass. The wash water is actually pretty good for your lawn, and any bigger chunks can be removed by hand. Leaves and smaller stuff can just stay there and become worm food. It will dissolve quicker than you think.

The trick to successful and yuck-free composting is to avoid putting loose food scraps into the green bin. I hear complaints about maggots and other gross things, but we’ve never actually had that issue with our bin. All you need to do is wrap your food in newspaper, OR, do what I do, and use something called a Kitchen Cone.

This handy little thing was given to me a couple of months ago and I have to say, I’ve been really happy with it. I bet you didn’t know it’s a local invention too (which ups the cool factor in my books).

This is what it looks like:


I keep it on the counter during dinner prep, like this, so I put veggie peels and stuff right in:


When we’re done with it after dinner (because plates get scraped in there too) it goes right under the sink.

You don’t need to buy bags or make your own folded bags out of newspaper with the Kitchen Cone, which is what we were doing for awhile when the bins were first introduced. All you need to do is take a couple pages from the Citizen and just drop ’em in (right side up of course). No folding or fuss.

Part of the reason it works so well is because of the holes in the sides. It dries out the compost a bit and prevents any mucky stuff from collecting on the bottom, which was something I hated about the city-issued container. It had a tendency to collect The Worst Gunk in its murky corners, giving it serious a gross factor that resulted in me being the only one rinsing it out because the rest of the family wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

Our Kitchen Cone absorbs damp foods quite well (although I wouldn’t pour anything sopping wet in there – like soup). At the end of the day we just pick it up by the ends, roll up the top part a bit, and plunk it in the green bin. Sometimes it unrolls at the top but it’s really no biggie.

It never smells – although we empty it every day or so – and we haven’t even been using the lid that comes with it.

So what do you think of the new garbage pick up schedule now that we’ve been living with it for awhile? Is it working for you, or not? Is it encouraging you to use your green bin more often?

8 Responses to "The rather unglamorous subject of garbage and composting"

1 | jo(e)

April 27th, 2013 at 10:58 pm


Hmm … now I’m wondering if I can use my colander as a kitchen cone. (I currently use a bucket that I keep on the steps to my garage, but it gets really gross at times.)

2 | Psychgrad

April 28th, 2013 at 4:37 am


The new garbage pick up schedule is totally reasonable for us. We’re only a family of three. But, so much can be composted or recycled (as you show), that our garbage bin usually only has one or two grocery-sized bags in it on the pick up day.

Lately I’ve been thinking more about compost. I’ve been pretty convinced by the argument that it doesn’t make sense to ship away our compost and then buy compost for our garden. I’d like to start doing my own composting. I just need to figure out the best set-up for us.

I also really need to clean out our bin. Ugh — it’s going to be a nasty job.

3 | Carla

April 28th, 2013 at 11:44 pm


Interesting idea, but too bad it’s plastic. There is already so much plastic in the world, and it never goes away.

But like jo(e) above, this gives me a good idea to use a colander for the same purpose. Will give that a try.

4 | Ziad Nasrallah

April 29th, 2013 at 10:35 am


The new schedule did take a little getting used to, but I think I’m quite comfortable with it now. More recycling can only be a good thing, even it if feels a little inconvenient sometimes.

I appreciated the tips on cleaning the bin. It just occurred to me as I was reading that I had not washed mine out in quite awhile. I ended up doing it your way as your post was fresh in my mind. Nice and easy process.

5 | binki

April 29th, 2013 at 12:50 pm


That’s a cool little product (plastic cone). Much better than buying those little specialized paper bags. I’m wondering if it works if you use a newspaper other than the Citizen? ;-)

We compost in the back yard (2 composters) and use a shiny metal bucket to store compostables in the house (on the counter). We acquired the metal bucket (and lid) at Lee Valley. I highly recommend encourage folks to use composters. Good for the environment and good for your garden.

6 | jane

April 29th, 2013 at 1:43 pm


I, too, have a major phobia of creepy crawlies in my green bin. I line my bin with a leaf bag each week. I also do the newspaper trick, but I just shove a couple of pieces into my small, kitchen bin and dump as necessary. no mess, no fuss and not too gross bins.

7 | Sarah McCormack

April 30th, 2013 at 10:46 am


I love my green bin! just picked up small “baby bin” for when we have bbq’s etc.. i’ll keep it clean and just wheel it out so we can scrape leftovers and paper plates/napkins straight into it on the deck!

the kitchen cone is an invention of my friend’s husband!!! I did the product shots for him several years ago! so happy to see it featured here.

we are very lucky in Ottawa to have this composting program. I have “converted” many of my neighbours into using their green bin!

8 | Getting ready for a new season of composting >> a peek inside the fishbowl

April 14th, 2014 at 5:01 am


[…] been using the big green bin all winter for all of our compost (in partnership with our Kitchen Cone, which I still love), but now that it’s warmed up a little I’m starting to divert […]

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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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