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Green bins get greater use in region’s rural areas

The region’s rural residents, who typically have more options to compost at home, participate in greater numbers than people in the cities when it comes to the underperforming green bin program.

Still, given the much smaller population and lower overall participation rates, Waterloo Region is nowhere near meeting its targets, spending far more because of it.

A little more than 9,000 tonnes of organic waste went into green bins in 2012 – down from the year before – but officials were expecting 20,000 tonnes. The region signed a long-term contract with the City of Guleph based on the projected number. As of October, it will be paying $2.3 million a year to the processor no matter how much waste it sends. That’s about double what it would have cost if the region had gone with a Hamilton facility, paying only for what it sends, the Waterloo Region Record reports.

Currently, 132,000 homes have green bins available. The region says the program has a 19 per cent capture rate: the 9,000 tonnes collected representing only a fifth of the estimated organic waste available.

If everyone used the blue box and green bin all of the time, the region would divert as much as 80 per cent of waste from the landfill. In 2012, the actual diversion rate was 53 per cent.

While the majority of green waste comes from the cities due to higher populations, there is better overall participation from the townships (about 10 kilograms more per household), Cari Rastas Howard, project manager of waste management programs at Region of Waterloo, said this week.

“Historically we have seen better participation in the rural townships. While the majority of our waste comes from the tri-cities because that’s where the majority of our population is, the last time we looked at the numbers we actually saw that on a per household basis we have better participation in the rural townships.”

There are three known reasons for better green waste management among rural folk. One is that township dwellers are familiar with composting through the use of backyard compost barrels.

“Putting it into the green bin wasn’t that much of an additional step for them,” Howard said.

The infamous “yuck” factor plays a part in bin-shunning she said.

“We know that one of the things that people don’t like in the tri-cities is when the servicemen dump the bins into the trucks. The way the trucks are set up sometimes they slop some of the material down the side of the green bin and that turns some people off the program.”

There’s a small compartment for green bin waste in the garbage trucks, which doesn’t leave much room to maneuver. In townships, however, contractors use a separate vehicle to collect green waste, thus minimizing spills and drops.

“It’s something we’re working on with our tri-cities contractor, but we’ve heard from a number of people complaining.”

The final and most compelling factor is that a four to six garbage bag limit keeps rural residents more conscious of their trash, and focused on other methods of disposal. In the cities the bag limit is 10 per household. Howard notes that there are some remote areas in the townships where green bin collection is still not available.

Farmers have a long history of habitual composting practices, says a researcher with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It’s possible that some rural property owners have the space and opportunity to compost table scraps and fertilize their yards and gardens instead of using green bins.

“There are a lot more people in the urbanized areas of the Region of Waterloo than there are in the rural areas, so one would have thought that they would generate the required volume from urban areas without having to rely on the much lower volume from rural areas,” said Dave Armitage.

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