As Winnipeg’s new Garbage and Recycling Master Plan is rolled out across the city, families will be trading giant autobins and limitless garbage bags for roll off carts of 240 litres, about the size of three large bags. We asked you, does this accommodate your household? Here is what we found:
There is much to applaud in the City of Winnipeg’s plan. More compost collection and local recycling depots will go some ways towards increasing our diversion rate and moving us from the bottom of the pack of major cities across Canada. One of the most controversial parts of the plan is that it will provide all households a 240 litre cart. Will this new cart constrain use? Is it too small? Or is 240 litres so big that it will do little to encourage more recycling?
City of Winnipeg officials defend the 240 litre size as a constraint for many households, limiting the amount of garbage they would produce. If the typical household currently needed more than 240 litres, there would be a benefit in the size of the container, even if for many families it would be too large. Let us look at typical garbage production in Manitoba.
Manitobans ranks 2nd among provinces for highest per capita rate of residential waste produced. We throw out 332 kilograms of municipal waste per year – only Newfoundlanders throws out more. Within Winnipeg, we do slightly worse, throwing out 342 kilograms per person in 2009. We have one of the lowest recycling rates in the country, diverting only about 17 percent of municipal household waste. We can do much better. Given these already excessive rates of garbage production, how does 240 litres per week add up?
Translating kilograms per person, per year into litres per household, per week is tricky. Not all garbage weighs the same, households come in different sizes, and garbage production can vary throughout the year. However, considering typical figures, 240 litres per week seems generous.
Densities for garbage can vary tremendously. Wet, bulky waste, is much heavier than dry, loose garbage. A study of waste in Vancouver, Washington found that depending on the level of service, households produce up to 100 kilograms of garbage per cubic metre of service. Other figures for garbage density are higher, but we will assume that Vancouver’s garbage density is similar to Winnipeg’s. At this rate, a 240 litre container with weekly pickup would allow each household to throw away up to 1250 kilograms of waste each year, or 312 kilograms person for a family of four. This amount is less than the current average of 342 kilograms per person, but is still well above the Canadian average of 256 kilograms per person.
Compared to current usage, a 240 litre container could constrain the usage for some large families, and may encourage them to recycle more. However, large families would still have access to generous garbage space. Given that the introduction of the carts will coincide with greater options for yard waste pick up and other waste reduction options, 240 litres is excessive. For smaller families, or for households that are already practicing waste reduction, the 240 litre container will greatly exceed their needs. For this reason, Green Action Centre has recommended that Winnipeg offer options to households who choose to reduce their waste or recycle more, by offering lower rates for for smaller carts, or alternatively biweekly or monthly pickup.
More information: Approve garbage plan now and Kudos to mayor and council on waste plan.
More Green Myths.
Thanks for everyone’s comments. We have now posted our response above.
I have no problem with our garbage receptacles at the moment, and look forward to a similar recycling receptacle to avoid several blue boxes. What I do have a problem with is the inconsistency throughout the city! Why do only certain areas of the city have these garbage receptacles? Why aren’t all citizens asked to control their amount of waste by using these bins? I think it is both irresponsible and unethical that areas of the city be treated differently.
As a single person I usually have more waste as in yard waste and reycle material usually two boxes. Of `garbage’ landfill usually not more that one white bag. If I have company then maybe a full white bag, but rarely two. That does not mean I do not have 2 or 3 yard waste at various times of the year and not always when they have those recyle depot open so unless I take to the woods open the bags up and dump, it is all clean yard stuff that will break down…it goes with regular garbage.
So 240…not big enough for those who will contine to put all the house waste including recyle in it, just like they do now.
The majority of people are not really looking at diverting the majority of their waste, let alone looking at reduced consumption. A move to reduced garbage pickup (every 2 weeks) wouold make the carts a bit more justifiable. The issue that Darryl raises about the carts tipping over would make sense as my existing garbage can has a high center of gravity and I usually make sure to use my blue bins to support it and prevent it falling over.
Very good question and comments so far. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that we (I include our home) are all the “believers” in that we all compost, recycle and overall, consume less than the majority of residents in our city (and beyond). The majority of our city does not fall into the same category as us.
My collection day is today and we had three blue boxes full plus some cardboard beside but our garbage can (100L) was less than 1/4 full. Is the 240 L cart too big for us for garbage? Yes, but not unlike today, I will place it out as I see fit or when it is full. Last winter, we placed our garbage out 4 times from December to April. Should I get a smaller garbage can because it isn’t full every week right now? The simple answer is no. (by the way, even old garbage cans come in minimum sizes that are still too big for most of us).
The majority of my neighbours that placed material out today are not at all like us. Most have one BB and 2-3 garbage cans plus lots of yard waste bags out for collection today. Audits of the garbage would show that there is lots of recyclables in the garbage, but attitudes of unlimited garbage collection suggest to people that putting recycling in the garbage is easier than buying another blue box.
As Mark mentioned above, there are lots of other benefits with moving to a cart system but few people notice that a cart brings in volume limits and makes people think about their consumption and disposal of material. We have had people tell us that we ‘made them buy a blue box’ because the cart won’t fit all the (recyclable) material like unlimited garbage collection did.
As far as the case for smaller carts, winter is an issue for them as they fall over because of a higher centre of gravity, in cities that offer the carts, the actual uptake is smaller than people realize (again, because most aren’t like us and truly into waste minimization or diversion) but the cost to the city is higher because of extra assets and the cost of storage, etc., and where people pay on volume (Toronto, for example) the amount of garbage in the recycling is much higher from homes with the smallest bins, because most people take the cheapest option (for cart payment) and ‘hide’ the rest of their garbage in their recycling.
Is the system perfect? No system is perfect. Will it be better at waste diversion than what we have today? Absolutely.
Its true, the bin size is the end of the line in the process of dealing with the garbage problem. I like the analogy of building smaller toilets 🙂 When my colleague and I toured the new electronics recycling facility in Morden, MB, we asked them if the company had any way to inform electronics manufacturers on ways to make recycling easier or more profitable – eg. metal rather than plastic parts. No they did not. But it would be a good step. Sound Extended Producer Responsibility policies is something Green Action Centre has fought for – and will keep working on to address this important issue. Thanks for all your comments!
If other households resemble mine, our waste volume can vary considerably over the year (lower in summer when we can compost, higher around holiday times and yard clean-up times in spring and fall). Most of the time the autobin will probably be more than adequate, but sometimes it may not. When it’s not, then the onus for storing waste safely will fall on householders.
But the discussion about bin sizes misses a key point that should concern us. Part of the reason for switching to these bins is so that waste pick-ups can be automated, presumably more efficient, more comfortable for waste handlers (they don’t have to get out of trucks in winter), safer (fewer workplace injuries) and fewer workers required. These are sound reasons for making a switch.
But the idea that limiting bin sizes will somehow reduce overall waste volumes is, I think, equivocal. This is akin to suggesting that the way to limit over-eating is to reduce the size of toilets. I doubt that any waste management system will effectively reduce the volume of waste until we go much farther upstream and start to address the packaging industry and also product designers who either (a) design excessively wasteful packaging for products because they are expecting the package to perform too many functions (i.e., advertising, product protection, loss prevention, etc.) and/or (b) design all sorts of goods which fail to allow for easy repair and recycling. In addition, there is the much larger issue of just living in a society that over-promotes consumption as the path to a good life rather than sufficiency, simplicity and moderation. Until we deal with these design and cultural issues, fiddling with bin sizes will be mostly a marginal concern.
You indicate that you have less waste in summer when you can compost. Composting in winter is not only possible, it is in many ways easier than summer. Check out https://greenactioncentre.ca/content/compost-all-winter/
When we lived in Bloomington we had to pay for our pickup. A can about 1/2 that size was great. We would occasional fill it but normally only half full. The 240 we now have from the city is normally filled only about the bottom foot and take a lot of room in our garage. It does encourage you to throw more into the garbage.
I think the new garbage cans are too big for most people and if they are not they probably have too much garbage, except for exceptional circumstances.
Let’s encourage a sense of community. Get together with your neighbours. If your garbage can is too big or too small share the capacity or lack of with your neighbours.
One person could have the green bin and one the garbage bin so not everyone would have to have two big bins in thier garage. Get out and meet your neigbours and cooperate with them.