New West Wednesday: Let’s talk trash

The front-page article on today's Newsleader is about New Westminster's new green bin program. According to the article, with the introduction of a dedicated waste bin for food scraps, New Westminster has gone from having a 31 per cent rate of diverting waste from the landfill in 2009 to 59 per cent in the last three months of 2010. How do you like the green bin program? What do you do to reduce trash? How do you think New West could further reduce garbage sent to the landfill?

The front-page article in today’s Newsleader is about New Westminster’s new green bin program. According to the article, with the introduction of a dedicated bin for food scraps, New Westminster has gone from having a 31 per cent rate of diverting waste from the landfill in 2009 to 59 per cent in the last three months of 2010.

Personally, I love the green bin, and I had been looking forward to the new single-stream recycling bins that are coming (you can toss in all recyclables without having to sort them all), but I see there’s a counter-argument that this approach lowers the quality of the recyclables, which results in a lower price for them on the commodities market (I didn’t even know there was a commodities market for recyclables … shows what I know!). The city is aware of this and has taken the position that more recycling is better (and I think I agree) but it just goes to show that these things are much more complex than they seem.

As I wrote this post I was reminded me of a Freakonomics podcast I listened to once on the subject of trash, which floated some interesting incentives to encourage waste reduction, including charging people for trash pickup based on the volume or weight of the trash their household puts out at the curb. “Pay-as-you-throw” needs to be done carefully if the goal is to increase compliance with trash diversion programs. Some folks in the U.S. live in communities with privatized trash pickup, and because they would have to pay an extra fee for recycling pickup they just don’t bother. At all.

How do you like the green bin program? What do you do to reduce trash? How do you think New West could further reduce garbage sent to the landfill?

Briana Tomkinson

Briana Tomkinson is a Montreal-based writer and original founder of Tenth to the Fraser. She really likes to write letters by hand.

Briana Tomkinson is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.


  1. Soft plastics are my big beef. They are recyclable, but not curbside and so people tend to just toss them. So much soft plastics in our lives too.

    1. I agree. I hate soft plastic.

      We collect them and take them down to the recycling depot by Canada Games pool. I am shocked how much there is – every week, we fill up a shopping-bags worth. They are unavoidable, as everything seems to have a soft-plastic component.

      Has anyone found a good strategy for replacing plastic wrap? We tried silicon covers that stretch, but they ripped, and would often flip off if the bowl was slippery – it was an expensive experiment.

      1. I've been using Abeego wraps, available at Tiny Goods in the River Market. They mold well to the bowl. I've used them to wrap cheese too and they seem to work fine. they make leftovers in your fridge look pretty and retro!__I've also bought a bunch of glass storage containers. Most have plastic lids, but at least they are reusable.__There are glass storage containers with glass lids:

        1. We got some of these – a bit of care is required, but they work well. They are just hemp cloth coated with bees wax. Should be easy to make if that's your thing.

      2. I cover the bowl with a small plate or large saucer and they usually stay put. I am referring to the things I put in the fridge.

        1. Gee I wonder what civilization did for the tens of thousands of years before soft plastic and fridges were invented to preserve the excess of hunting/gathering.

          It's a miracle we made it this far without em ! And in another 250 years, after we depleted the accessible carbon reservoirs, what will our GGGG grandkids use to preserve the tradition of this gluttony ?

          1. Well, if you read Hobbes, life "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short". Probably due to poor food storage techniques.

          2. Sometimes I also forget about the rest of the world, like the parts you see on Sunday morning television who still manage to live without saran wrap and fridges but need our donations. They fit Hobbes depiction wouldn't you say ? 2011 anyone ?

      1. You can return tetra-paks to the Return-it depot for the refund for the juice ones and they'll recycle the other ones for broth and such.

  2. The green-bin program is great, but hasn't made a huge impact for us. Our kitchen scraps, and some leaves, go into the composters.

    I used to take branches down the hill to the recycling depot by the Canada Games pool. The bin has made it a bit more convenient, but I still have to make the trip when I have more green material than can fit in the bin. It's handy for bones and other animal products that need to be recycled. I wonder if tossing a dead rat or raccoon in there would be ok?

    If I could justify a shredder/chipper to reduce leaves and branches to very small pieces, I doubt I would use the green bin much at all, as I'd rather keep the output for the compost and mulch for the gardens.

    I would like to see garbage become more expensive to toss. I wrote to city council a while back, asking that we move to a user-pay for garbage. For example, everyone gets 12 tickets per year, each one good for one small bin. Additional tickets are $20 each. The savings could be used to reduce property taxes. Less garbage to be shipped to the interior, cheaper to run trucks (as fewer cans out), and less staff required.

    My wife's family has a cabin at Point Roberts, and it's private garbage pickup there. It's around $15 per small can, so there is an incentive to recycle, and compost.

  3. It drive me crazy that there are no green bins for apartments/condos. It seems like these two are major factors in New West, it would be nice to have more recycling in these buildings.

  4. I don't recycle household garbage.

    Knowing that my garbage is sent to an incinerator in Burnaby, I throw paper, plastic and metal into my regular trash, knowing the paper and plastic will burn up nicely, and the metal will be sifted out of the slag.

    Organic matter is composted, the old fashion way, a heap in the corner of the yard. It gives mother nature an opportunity to have a free meal, the birds, rats, mice and raccoon's often visit to see what's on the menu.

    How could new west reduce garbage going to the landfill ?
    Build an incinerator like Burnaby and put it in Sapperton !

    1. Does all our garbage here in N.W. go to the incinerator ? Is that true?

      Do the rats and mice follow you out of your house when you head out to the heap in the corner of your yard?

      1. I think the person to ask about where out trash ultimately ends up, works for the city, and was interviewed for the story on the front page of the NewsLeader that Briana mentions.

        As for the rats and mice and who they follow, I will leave that up to your imagination.
        But I do have a magical pipe that I play ! Care for a listen ?

        1. The pied piper of new west?. i could have really used your services a few years back.

          If what you say is true, and some of it has to be since the burnaby incinerator sites ive looked up do list new west as a contributer, then I guess its a bit misleading when they talk about how much trash is being diverted from the landfill?

          1. I did not know the incinerator listed their combustible contributors !

            Yes, calling the sky a landfill is a odd term. It's a form of rotation.
            But then there is the slag they have to truck out, so I guess technically a percentage of the material that doesn't end up in the atmosphere actually does end up on land !

            Good research !

  5. I don't mind the green bins per se but they simply don't make much difference in our lives and now we've got a messy and nasty bin that's difficult to clean.

    I'm with Jen on the soft plastics too. Curiously, they were collected for the last two years and then three weeks ago an abrupt stop to this and a sticker on our bin telling us to 'separate plastics' and 'no soft plastics'. Someone I know joked that they were likely collecting them for fuel until they had a stash for the new incinerator.

    I'm not a fan of trucking my stuff to the Depot or hanging onto it until I need to go near a depot and have to remember the bag of nasties in my cupboard – how about the carbon emissions from driving the tetra- packs, soft plastics and other items not accepted? Does anyone think about that part of the equation?

    I liked it well enough when we composted, as it was we didn't have as much garbage then either and we got lovely compost. I'm also not a fan of it being put upon consumers to not buy heavily packaged stuff when sometimes, it's just a better deal to buy it versus the less packaged single item that costs much more. I can't stand the over packaging but save not buying the stuff, how can a person register their desire for less plastic? Sending e-mails and writing letters can really become a job…oh, yeah right, I sort of have that kind of job. Well, volunteering anyway.

    I'm a big fan of reducing our garbage in the landfills, I like the concept but think it could go much further than it does and I would really like a product that we could use to line the bins so I don't have to look at the horrific science experiment that is my green bin.

    Rats love compost and rotting garbage so, whether we compost our food or toss it in the green bin for the City's compost, they let their presence be known. I think I'll start naming them, we see them in our alley so often.

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