Getting the green bin even greener
Toronto’s Green Bin Organics Program, first implemented in 2002 in single-family homes, is the largest one of its kind in North America. And with approximately 90 per cent participation rate – that’s roughly 460,000 households dutifully putting organic waste into green bins for weekly curbside pickup – the end result is 111,848 tonnes of organics waste diverted from landfill.
Good news right? It is, but according to the 2012-2013 waste audit, about 38 per cent of what is left in the garbage bin is still green bin material.
“There is an opportunity to divert a little bit more,” says Annette Synowiec, Acting Director of Policy, Planning & Support for the City of Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services.
Synowiec, who is working on the City’s Long-Term Waste Management Strategy, will be sharing how the city manages food waste as one of the panelists during Appetite for Change at this weekend’s Green Living Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
It’s a massive topic, given a 2014 report that suggests more than $31 billion worth of food is wasted every year in Canada – even three times as much when energy, water and other resource costs are factored in.
“We always want to reduce up front,” says Synowiec. Although the City wants Torontonians to use the green bin, she says there are ways to even avoid that step with better grocery planning, sharing meals with friends, freezing leftovers and organizing work place lunch swaps and salad clubs.
Food waste also equals money wasted, as this video from the UK restaurant industry illustrates:
Synowiec also draws attention to efforts by Love Food Hate Waste, a UK-based initiative that raises awareness of the environmental and economic impact of food waste. They offer tips on food storage and reading labels:
While Torontonians try to waste less, the City looks at even greener opportunities.
Currently organic waste goes to the city-operated Disco Road Organics Processing Facility or two transfer stations where it heads to three private facilities within the city for composting. (You can learn about each step here.)
Each year the facility at 120 Disco Road processes approximately 75,000 tonnes of organic materials and the City wants to capture and use the biogas, generated as a by-product of the anaerobic digestion process, to provide heat and power to its on-site facilities.
“We are using green bin material to produce electricity which is then used to process the green bin material,” explains Neil MacDonald, Manager, Capital Delivery, Solid Waste Management Services.
Earlier this month the City submitted a Renewable Energy Application to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Once approved, the Disco facility could produce up to 2.8 MW of electricity and have the potential to take the entire facility and adjacent city works property off the grid.
“The end product of that is savings to the City in excess of a million dollars per year,” MacDonald explains.
Also in the plans is the expansion of the currently decommissioned Dufferin Organics Processing Facility that would provide an additional 55,000 tonnes per year of processing capacity.
“Once we have Dufferin (site) up and running we’ll have city-owned capacity to deal with most if not all the SSO (Source Separated Organics) that the city generates,” he continues.
In the meantime, the City continues to roll out its Green Bin Program to multi-residential units and has plans to replace its aging green bins with one that is easy-to-use, even more rodent resistant and can be collected with automated trucks.