As many of you know, the Green Cart Program is coming to Calgary and will be rolled out through much of Ward 11 over the summer. This is a program I fully support.
When I was living in Southwood a few years ago, my home was part of one of the pilot programs done in four neighbourhoods in the city (Abbeydale, Brentwood and Cougar Ridge were the others). I found the program to be very easy to incorporate into day to day use for my family. It also had benefits I wasn’t expecting, such as making me more aware of types of packaging used as well as the amount of food we would sometimes waste. This allowed me to start making better, more economical choices as a shopper and reduce waste further. With over 50% of household waste (by weight) being organic material, this type of composting makes a lot of sense.
There are some misconceptions and misunderstandings about the program that I think are important to address.
“I already compost. There isn’t going to be anything in my green cart.”
First of all, composting is great and it is good your family does that already. The reality is however, many Calgary households don’t. According to Stats Can, in 2013, just 52% of all city homes composted yard and kitchen waste. Of that, just 27% composted kitchen waste. Only 56% of us with yards put our garden waste in a composter. We can do better than that.
Secondly, the Green Cart Program also takes a lot of items a traditional back yard composter won’t (in addition to the usual yard waste, fruits and veggies we might already contribute) such as:
- Plate scrapings
- Raw and cooked meat (and bones)
- Eggs and Dairy products
- Grains and pasta
- Baked goods
- Cooking oils and sauces
- Pet waste
- Pet hair
- Pet bedding
- Pet food and treats
- Food soiled paper plates and napkins
- Cold barbecue or fireplace ashes
- Wooden popsicle sticks, chopsticks and toothpicks
(For a full list of items, click here)
You can still opt to compost in your yard composter for your gardening needs – the Green Cart Program will simply complement your efforts by allowing you to get rid of more household waste in a sustainable way.
“This new green bin is going to attract mice and other vermin.”
The green cart is not going to attract any more attention from critters than your current black bin does – it’s the same garbage, just separated differently for pick up. Going forward, once your collection starts, green carts and blue carts will be picked up every week on the same day (on your scheduled day). Since most household waste is compostable and may smell, this material will be picked up once a week.
Black carts will be picked up once every two weeks on a different day than blue and green carts since more than half of our garbage is compostable material that can go in your green cart. This will divert a lot of waste from landfills. In fact, it is expected 85 million kilograms of food and yard waste will be diverted from the landfill annually through the program.
“I don’t think this will really make a difference.”
Many Canadian and American cities have been running programs like this for years – over a decade in some cases. In Toronto, each household is diverting 200 kg of organics from landfill (on average). Greater San Francisco has been composting since 2009 and now composts and recycles over 80% of all the waste from its 4.6 million people. Closer to home, the year-long pilot program in Calgary saw the four participating neighbourhoods divert 40% of waste away from landfills.
“I heard multifamily homes like townhouse complexes and apartment buildings don’t have to participate?”
They do – they will also start later in the year and must have something in place by November 1, 2017. Condo boards, building owners and property management companies will find private solutions that will meet the City’s criteria for organics disposal.
“We shouldn’t have to pay a fee.”
Each household paying a monthly fee (which will not start until next year) will help with both establishing the City’s composting facility and the annual operational costs. The $6.50 per month fee also incorporates the savings found with less refuse being taken to city landfills through the black cart program. It is important to note that the costs of creating new landfills and operating existing ones are increasingly expensive and not sustainable. Those expenses are something we need to reduce. Here are some examples of the costs of landfills, initially and over time:
- Land (cost of acquiring land and buffer zone (5 or more hectares for every hectare of landfill).
- EA/ regulatory application (costs of environmental assessment and regulatory compliance).
- Design/Construction Materials and labour (landfill and infrastructure).
- Ongoing operations: Labour/materials/ equipment/administration
- Environmental monitoring/controls
- Closure Maintenance / financial assurance.
- Unforeseen environment impacts
- Reduced property values/reduced property appreciation of area homes/businesses
- Reduced/lost property taxes
- Reduced development opportunities for area
- Landfill replacement costs (replacement cost for every tonne of waste deposited in a landfill. i.e. new landfill capacity must be found)
The majority of the compost will be sold in bulk to companies such as landscape soil blenders and compost baggers. The proceeds from the sale of the compost help reduce the processing cost and lower the Green Cart program fee.
A portion of the finished compost will be made available to the community for free. This includes:
- supporting community gardens
- giveaway days for the public starting in 2018
I believe the Green Cart Program is a good thing for Calgary. It will reduce our individual footprints, it will make us more sustainable as a city and it will divert waste away from landfill into solutions that allow the waste to be reused in a productive way. As in my experience, I think it will make many Calgarians more aware of what they are using in their homes and what they are wasting. The Green Cart Program will provide better options for those not able to compost themselves, and will provide everyone with options to dispose of organic material that can’t go in backyard composters. In participating in this program, you as a resident will be helping to create nutrient rich compost, protect our land, air and water resources, and keep material out of landfills to avoid future hefty costs – something that our future-selves and children will appreciate.