Vv Magazine’s West Coast Editor Alexandra Gill takes a closer look at what’s going down (and breaking down) in your compost. Are you really going to get a fine for throwing what remains of wing night in trash? Alexandra sifts through all the noise to get the scoop…
Vancouver often boasts about becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. But in many ways, we’re still sucking fumes and spewing hot air.
Take, for instance, the City of Vancouver’s recently expanded food scraps program. Even at the very beginning, we were already late to the game. The initial green bin program for houses and duplexes — which encouraged the recycling of uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags and eggshells, etc, etc – was here introduced in 2010. That was three full years after the City of Toronto launched theirs.
For several years, the Vancouver program has been successful with restaurants, businesses and single-family dwellings. But then last October, in what seemed to be a desperate bid to catch up and target the highest density organic-garbage offenders – apartment and condo dwellers – a new law was passed by council that placed an outright ban on all food scraps in regular disposal.
As of January 1, it became illegal for any household to dump chicken bones in the garbage bin. How this drastic measure was ever to going to be enforced was never clear. Were inspectors going to start digging through bags to hunt for scraps and then try to match coffee grinds with cups stains on equally verboten junk mail that hadn’t separated into the mixed paper bin?
It all sounded ridiculous and inexplicably vague. But that didn’t stop local news outlets from airing threatening pronouncements about how residents would be fined with unspecified penalties for non-compliance.
Fast-forward three months. My condo-dwelling friends on Facebook suddenly started complaining about the “hideously ugly” city-supplied counter-top food composters “shaped like gallon-sized dollar-store trash cans” in “mottled beige.”
“If [city councillors] think for one second that I’m putting some hideous plastic pail on my kitchen counter, they’re sorely deluded,” Vancouver fashion maven Steven Schelling posted.
Huh? My building hadn’t even been issued a green bin,” let alone a single-unit food composting pail in the JJ Bean catalogue shade of “Oatmeal Heather.” I suddenly felt unreasonably deprived and immediately called my apartment manager.
“Mimi, where is our green bin’?”
“It’s down there in the basement,” she said. And sure enough it was – short, squat and hidden between the mixed paper and container blue bins. I recycle at least once week, but I swear I hadn’t seen it.
Mimi was just as confused as me. “Someone from the city picked up the parking-lot keys from head office and put it there,” she explained. “They didn’t call me. They didn’t say anything. I think they empty it sometimes.”
And they certainly didn’t offer her any in-suite disposal pails. Why not? Is West of Denman the new recycling ghetto?
I called up 311. “Hi, I’m inquiring about the multi-unit building counter-top food composters. Where can I get one?”
“We don’t do that anymore,” explained a city worker named Paul. “It was only available when the program started about a year-and-a-half ago.”
Oh, really. Another friend said he received his in December. In any case, how am I now supposed to transport my kitchen eggshells to the basement bin?
“You can go to Home Depot and get a counter-top pail,” Paul offered.
Or maybe I could just move back to Toronto where they still give them away for free. (Just joking, but they do!)
And what if I don’t? Will I be fined for mixing food with regular old garbage?
Paul chuckled. “Ah, basically it’s just a soft launch. I don’t think any fines will be handed out for a year or two. There hasn’t been any date set.”
So it’s all toothless fear mongering for now, just as I thought. But being the good recycling grouch that I am, I’d still like a counter-top food composting pail for all the bones and gnarly leftovers that can’t be stuffed down my ancient garburator.
Perhaps something even more stylish than the city models granted to Vancouver’s recycling elite. I hear brushed steel is the look that all the cool composters are going for. Herewith, a few options…
Vancouver: what are your thoughts on food composting? Don’t forget to share them with us in the comments below and follow us and the conversation at @ViewTheVibe.