Composting Diversion

I haven’t written about my Green Cone in a while.

You want to know why? Because like most things that simply work, it is almost completely unremarkable.

I started blogging here a couple of years ago, not too long before I first got a Green Cone. I rambled on after that about installing it, initial concerns, and finally finding the groove.

I only bring it up again because last week the annual Solid Waste Report for the City was reported to Council, and according to the numbers for 2011, diversion rates are up. Way up. It occurred to me that I contributed 0% to that increased diversion. In fact, I might have been responsible for a small reduction of the overall number.

You see, diversion is the measure of how much curbside trash goes to recycling as opposed to the landfill (or incinerator, more on this later). The City’s diversion rate has gone from 31% to 59% between 2009 and 2011, almost completely because much of what used to go to landfill now goes into the Green bins, and is “diverted” from landfilling. This is a remarkable number, 59%, proof that a lot of people are using the green bins. the best part is, although we are currently not seeing the savings (we are managing the costs related to the shift in systems), we are going to save a lot of tax dollars in the long run.

That said, I really don’t use my Green Bin. Since before they arrived, I have been putting my vegetative compostables into a compost bin and using it for fertilizer on my garden, and have taken the nastier organics in my trash (essentially, anything that stinks) and put it in my green cone. Add this to blue bin box recycling, and we really don’t throw much out. We take our 120L trash bin to the curb less than once a month (Really, its is all about the laziness… I hate getting up to take out trash in the morning). in the green bin? A few twigs from annual pruning, and a few gardening weeds I don’t want in my compost.

However, much of that actual “diversion” I do at home does not show up in the City’s or Metro Vancouver’s statistics, because none of that waste ever gets to the curb. Actually, since getting a Green Cone, our measured diversion rates as a percentage of our trash has likely gone down somewhat. So we are saving even more tax dollars.

As for the new blue bins for “commingled recycling”, I have railed on about these in the past. The thing is freaking huge, and I just can’t get over the idea that they are somehow going to make people recycle more because they now don’t have a separate bag for paper. We are going to have to wait until next year’s report to see if this proves true. I am hoping that next year’s report will also include some discussion of where the commingled recycling material is going: how much of it is recycled, how much is “bypass”, and how much is incinerated.

If it is going they way I suspect it is, and the way it has commonly gone in other jurisdictions where commingling has replaced separated containers and paper, then the best strategy for those who actually want to reduce their solid waste generation will be to take paper to the recycling yard, where we can be more confident it is being recycled and not burned.

Oh, the Green Cone? It works great. I have a little counter-top bin to collect things that I don’t want to go in the compost (bones, meat, fish, cheese, gravy, etc) and every couple of days I dump them in the cone. I have not had to add any of the bacterial starter for more than a year, everything down there looks appropriately grey and fuzzy, and there is no noticeable smell. The cone seems to be at some sort of equilibrium where I keep adding stuff and the pile stays the same size… Must have something to do with Dark Matter or other mysterious forces… The worst thing that happened this year is my little counter-top bin started to smell a bit. Turns out something funky got into the fabric fly filter in the top. I popped it out, soaked it a few hours in baking soda, then threw it in the dishwasher. Good as new.

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