I spent the weekend at my friend’s apartment in Toronto. When we were cooking on Friday she threw away all of her scraps and then explained to me that composting is required in Toronto. I was shocked. How amazing is that?!? Then my shock turned to disbelief. How could she not take advantage of this system? I wish DC had a composting program for me to partake in. And I wondered if there is a green bin located outside of her apartment, next to the garbage can, why would she break the law? Does dividing your waste into three piles (trash, recycling and composting) really require that much effort? She told me that I should be impressed that she was recycling. In college that was a struggle and I always offered to walk down the four flights of stairs to take the recycling out.
I am not convinced that throwing out organic matter in Toronto is actually illegal, but Toronto has definitely taken a lot of steps to encourage people to compost their organic matter. The idea of composting really took hold when the city-owned Keele Valley landfill site closed on December 31, 2002, all the City’s garbage is trucked to a private landfill in Michigan. This increased the cost of disposal by more than 300% and organic matter makes up 30% of waste. As a result, Toronto started the Green Bin Program. Originally, Green Bins were placed in 30 apartment buildings. Since the pilot program was successful there are now 510,000 Green Bins located in single family homes around Toronto. In addition to being cheaper, composing organic matter creates a potential source of electricity and reduces landfill emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times as potent at warming the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Programs like this one are found in many European cities, however no other North American city has comparable composting program. San Francisco hopes to be the first. San Francisco wants to boost its high recycling rate (to 75% by 2010), so it may become the first city to make composting and recycling mandatory. And there could be stiff penalties for those who don’t comply. Caitlan Carroll reports. Meanwhile, in Washington, DC most buildings still do not recycle plastic bottles so you can imagine how difficult it is to find the compost pile.