The Mindful Merchant

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can Canada’s capital compost? January 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — MindfulMerchant @ 8:49 am


I am excited about the new Green Bin composting program that began yesterday in Ottawa. It will be interesting to see how many homes will participate since it got off to a bumpy start with complaints, opposition from residents living near the composting facility and other issues.  I think it is a positive thing for the environment and the city.  It is about time since many other municipalities have been composting for years.


The last few weeks we use the small kitchen container to collect organics and empty it into the big green bin at night. I am surprised at how quickly our family of 4 is filling it.   My frugal side is reluctant to spend almost $6.00 for 10 small food paper waste bags, (the City will not allow biobags/plastics in the compost) but  I am not willing to use the small bin without some type of liner. Green Bin Ottawa provides an economical alternative. Here is a short video on how to make easy origami bin liners out of old newspaper.  Do not worry the urge to wear it around as a hat wears off quickly.





I find the origami liners work only if you monitor the contents. The more liquid, the quicker it requires a dump and lock. No one wants to scrape up chicken chilli, dryer lint and coffee grounds off the garage floor. Trust.  I have a few friends experimenting with newspaper liners and the results are mixed. If you would like to compost with a liner this might be worth trying, especially if you want to save some money.


For more information visit the Green Bin Website where you will find instructions, teacher and parent guide and video, children’s activities and other helpful tips.  Click here for the 2010 pick-up schedule.


Have to be honest…I am not excited about cleaning and maintaining the green bin in the humid Ottawa summer. I look forward to reducing the garbage we set out on the curb and helping the planet. We all have a responsibility for our garbage. I hope the new composting program is a success.


How is your composting experience going?




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15 Responses to “can Canada’s capital compost?”

  1. Jen Says:

    Great video-thanks! I’ve been using plastic bio-bags since August but now I am going to switch to newspaper. My kids will enjoy making the paper liners.

  2. I’ve been using the origami newspaper and it works well. I have two kitchen bins going — I have the beige one provided by the city, plus I already had my own. I use one with a 2-layer newspaper origami liner in one bin to collect the dryer items like bread, and I use a 3-layer newspaper origami liner in the other bin with an extra crumpled newspaper at the bottom to collect the wetter stuff. I find the newspaper pouches work very well! I also lined my green bin with a few layers of newspaper and crumpled up newspaper balls. Maybe I’m just being keen and my effort will taper off!

    • Jen – They are worth trying…after reading Savvy’s comments I feel even better about recommending it.

      Savvy Shopaholic – Thanks for the suggestions. I think two bins make sense.

  3. XUP Says:

    Ottawa has made some poor choices with this program, unfortunately. First, the fact that it’s taken so damn long, when as you point out, everyone else in the world (almost) has been composting for decades. Then the endless rollout. Then the announcement of the surtax for the program. Then the bins they chose are crappy. They’re too small for the average family’s 2 weeks worth of compost. What happens in the fall with yard waste? Now they’re finding the compost is freezing and getting stuck in the bins, so the stuff isn’t being picked up. AND the bins are cracking in the cold temperatures. I’m a big fan of composting. Other municipalities have managed it very well without all this brouhaha. Halifax has had a program since the early 1990s with big, sturdy bins that have lasted almost 15 years. I hope Ottawa’s program works out, but I foresee it going back to the drawing board before the year is out, unfortunately.

    • If the amount of bins on the streets is any indication of success, I am worried you may be right XUP. I am following commentary in the community and many folks raise the same points. I really hope this program works. I am not willing to wait another 12 years for something better.

  4. DJ2 Says:

    I agree, I’m not too keen on maintaining the green bin in the summer. I noticed that Costco is carrying the large bin liners 10 for 4.99. They may help with stuff sticking in the winter and the slime in the summer!

  5. Finola Says:

    I think it will be great once we all get used to it. It probably wasn’t easy in the other cities when it first started either, though the City of Ottawa has done an exceptional amount of bungling.
    At our house we are in the middle of a basement reno and have somehow misplaced our smaller kitchen bin, so we have been slow to start. I have also wondered how bad it would be if we skipped the meat for the moment. The maggot prevention tips have been disturbing me. I’m sure I’ll get used to it and embrace all parts of the program – I just might need a bit more time.

    • DJ2 – Thanks for the tip about large bin bags on sale at Costco – that price is significantly lower than other hardward stores.

      Finola – I am also concerned about maggots (shudder) I agree, we all need more time to get used to it.

  6. I don’t live in Ottawa, but my in-laws do and though they are fairly “green” already, they find this new program tougher. They feel it was rolled out without any real information on how to effectively manage it all, and yes, they have the same concerns about the summer (and esp. maggots) as everyone else does. I suspect once they adjust to the change, they’ll be fine. My mother lives in NB and they introduced three or four different bins at the same time, and everyone complained, but eventually it becomes second nature.

    Here in the country, we just create big piles at the back of the property and let it all do its thing slowly so that every year or so we end up with beautiful compost for the garden. But even that’s a chore in winter because no-one wants to take the kitchen pail out to the back when it’s minus 20 lol.

  7. I hope you are right Denise and eventually it will become second nature. I will think of you hauling the pail in freezing temperatures every time I get lazy and do not want to go to the garage to empty my kitchen bin. šŸ™‚

  8. XUP Says:

    I lived happily in Halifax for 9 years with the green bin program. We had nice big sturdy bins about 4′ high that would hold all your compost plus your yard waste. We never had any issues with maggots, nothing ever froze in the bin and even though the empty bins would sometimes be rolling down the street on garbage day in the high winds, they never cracked or broke. Everyone composted. It was a bylaw. If they found compostable material in your garbage there was a series of penalities including not picking up your garbage, fines, etc. Private companies set up cleaning services that would come around and clean and disinfect your bins regularly if you wanted. And yes, it does become “second nature” to separate your garbage. Even after almost 3 years in Ottawa I still hesitate every time I go to throw compostables in the garbage. It pains me, it really does.

    • I am curious…what was the initial reaction to the program in Halifax? Did anyone balk at the bylaw and fines? That is a great idea for a business – cleaning out Green Bins. I bet there is someone in Ottawa starting that up right now. šŸ™‚

  9. XUP Says:

    The program in Halifax started just shortly before I got there, but almost everyone seemed on board with it. I think they were proud to be one of the first cities in the country to have a program. Also, all the logistics of the program were pretty much ironed out before it began – there was none of this 10 year very slow roll-out stuff, pilot projects, changes, etc.. that Ottawa has done. It was presented as: 1. we have no more landfill room and have to compost 2. EVERYONE will compost or be fined — and that included apartments, industry, stores, etc… The key is SIMPLE, I think

  10. Lesley Says:

    Wow — I will try to make that liner. Great idea.

    I have to say that that video is impressive — really good production, sound quality. Was it from the City?

    I just spent $50 on “the Biggest Loser” for the Wii — and the video quality was a joke.

    Love your vlog site — awesome tips, for everyday folks like me.

  11. Thanks Lesley. I would like to see if that little girl is still happy folding liners a month into the program. lol My kids no longer think it is a “cool” craft, so I do all the folding now. šŸ™‚

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