Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Wonders of Recycling and Composting in the City

Ahh recycling and composting. Definitely NOT a glamorous aspect of the 'green' movement... but kinda essential.

I've talked before about how Nova Scotia really does everything to make composting and recycling pretty darn easy. While we lived in BC we had a garden composting (ok, the landlord of our basement apartment had one) so I do remember the beauty of non-municipal composting.

Basically, it's so easy that I really don't understand the excuses given by local Haligonians. You'd be surprised how many people and businesses simply ignore the provincial *law* mandating composting and recycling.

Since sometimes I read about how many individuals say they would recycle, but living in the city-apartment-takeyourpick prevents them, I thought I'd share how Andrew and I have figured out our urban recycle-compost system. :)
Our leak-proof bags. love love them.
First off, the composting. So many people assume that having a kitchen compost would stink... but with the proper container it really shouldn't (and even without!). We have lots of friends who simply use an old icecream container lined with a paper bag, or a bucket. But... we really don't empty our compost every day. Mostly because we're lazy. So, essentially we decided to suck up the extra few bucks every once in a while and buy a nice compost container that clicks shut and some leak-proof compostable bags.
Our bin, it even SAYS Fresh... marketing at it's best.
Seriously, as long as the compost bin is shut there is zero smell. The only thing that sucks is when we wait wayyyy too long to empty it. Then it's gross and disgusting.
The innards of our recently emptied and clean bin :)
The city provides every.single.apartment building with an array of large bins for pick up. Our apartment has: an organics bin, a paper recycling bin, a blue bag (plastics, glass, cartons) bin and cardboard bin.
Our apartment's recycling spot. Two bins on right: paper and plastic, bin on left is corrugated cardboard only.
How do we empty our compost? Walk down the hall, two flights of stairs, out front, precariously lift the lid, DONOTINHALETHROUGHNOSE, and dump dump dump. We mostly take turns on this chore- since it's pretty gross (mostly because like I said, we're lazy and it gets disgusting). Easy!Our organics bin- this sucker gets STINKY in the summer.
Recycling is a bit more complicated actually. Halifax has strict rules on how to separate recyclable materials and what can and can't be accepted. We basically have three 'blue bag' systems. (please disregard

1. Old garbage bin turned blue bag container. This is where milk cartons (or any carton) #1, #2 plastic and glass live. We try to keep plastics to a minimum, so this bag only needs to be emptied (for our two person home) every two-three weeks.

2. Random blue bag. This one is actually for the 'dry organics'. Halifax requires that any regular cardboard (such as cereal boxes, toilet paper rolls) be composted. Instead of trying to collect a pile
, combined with our 'laissé faire' attitude, we just collect them in the blue bag and periodically do a combo- wet-dry compost run.

3. Regular paper blue bin. This gets emptied every few months or so, since we try not to waste a lot of paper.

We've also been collecting caps in an old tupperware container. They aren't accepted in regular plastic recycling, but Aveda will take them and send to special recycling facilities. I've been collecting for months now and need to make my first trip to the Aveda store downtown.

Since we started all this recycling and composting our actual 'garbage' bag has greatly decreased in size and there is no smell at all. We go through a small kitchen garbage bag every two weeks or so, depending.

That's it! So easy, I have no idea why anyone in Halifax wouldn't recycle or compost. After chatting with HRM's Organic's rep at the last 'eco-fair', I realized that although many businesses claim that they are exempt from the entire affair- they are in fact not... and are breaking a whole host of by-laws. Unfortunately, it's near impossible for HRM to track these infractions... so they get away with it.

I make a point of asking businesses where their recycling-composting bins are... and commenting on their answer. Annoying? Hah, well businesses tend to respond best to customer feedback. There's mine. :) The sign on our garbage bin... so fantastic.

How's your system? If you don't have municipal composting, would you consider vermicomposting (wormy goodness?). I can say that I most definitely would...

article and photograph copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. wow, I didn't know Aveda accepted caps! Is that all Avedas, do you know?! We are recycling/green bin freaks at my house. In college, one of my roommates would throw his recyclables in the trash and I would pick them out! How lazy, it was about 5 extra steps to the recycling bin outside!

  2. aww, you do me proud :0)

    portland recently changed over to a curbside recycling like california where all paper/alum/plastic is in one and glass is separate. they used to only take plastic bottles (anything with a 'neck') but this year they added butter tub type things and garden planter things (yes i know my words...).

    the exciting part? they are testing a curbside composting in a few neighborhoods, that, once it is successful, they will spread to all portland neighborhoods, where you can compost every type of food (seriously, even meat) and things like napkins. way cool. Best part? once they do this they will reduce garbage to every other week. i only do mine once a month and it's never even half full, but it'll be good for the rest of the world :)

    i'm lucky to have a recycling facility near me where i can take ALL other plastic like caps and stuff, including weird stuff like bubble wrap and other 'hard' plastics. our neighborhood market takes regular lids and 'clamshell' type containers.

    thanks for sharing!!

  3. Yay! I'm still surprised by how green Halifax is. That is really amazing. These systems are NOT usual in America - some apartment buildings still don't even have a recycling depot! I was, however, shocked and delighted by the compost system started in our town a few months ago.

    I don't choose to use it, however, as I am addicted to composting at home. If you have a garden, it's great to have compost - I have the worm bin and am getting a dry bin, too. I love it!

    We do, however, use our curbside recycling service religiously. What a convenience!

  4. That's great that you've got public composting. Before I moved into a house with a backyard and composter I was keeping vegetable waste sometimes for weeks until I went out to visit my mom. And that could get ugly.

  5. Nice! I live in Korea and their recycling/composting system here is ideal. And, EVERYONE does it. Well...maybe not entire properly all of the time, but it is certainly a way of life here.

    Can't wait to read more. Linked through to you!

  6. We have pretty much the same system here and like you I cannot understand why people piss and moan about it. Pure laziness is what it is...

  7. @Callah: yep I'm pretty sure it's all Avedas- states and Canada. I'm hoping it's still going on... haven't checked recently. Guess I'll find out!

    My gripe about the system here is the minimal plastic recycling- and how many people here have NO IDEA that it's only 1,2.

    sigh- in any case we're trying to decrease our packaging consumption. so maybe it's moot.

  8. Hi Eco Yogini - Glad you liked the Nap like a Yogi idea.

    As far as composting I think Duluth, MN is pretty progressive too. Duluth accepts all recycling: paper, plastic, glass, metal; and has food waste drop off sites. The best thing they offer (in my gardening opinion) is finished compost that they make from their yard waste site and from restaurant food waste. You can buy a truckload for $25. It's awesome!

    For myself, I have composting worms. I love them! They can eat 1 gallon of food waste a week. It has taken about 10 months to get my population up to this point but now that I have so many it's great. They live in a plastic tub in my basement. Over the winter the population was a little too small (and the basement a bit cold so I think they were sluggish) to eat all of our food waste but now we are steaming. The tub doesn't stink at all.

    Also, the bi-product is a black juice which is great for watering plants and it doesn't stink like some fertilizers.

    Here's where I got my worms if anyone is interested:

  9. My garbage is way stinkier than my compost ever is. As long as you don't put meat or dairy in it (which you're not supposed to anyway) it won't smell that bad. And I leave mine right on the kitchen counter for easy access (for the veggie scraps etc, soiled paper etc go in a separate one at my house). Of course, if I didn't do it, it wouldn't get done at my house.

  10. We have a 50-gal barrel composter in our backyard. We throw everything in that sucker! Basically, we just keep a big mixing bowl on the kitchen counter, toss our scraps in, and chuck 'em in the composter when the bowl is full. Only problem is, the composter is getting full and it's too heavy for me to turn!

    Our county does single-stream recycling, which means we don't have to separate things. This makes it SO easy! Even if we're not sure that something can be recycled (like a candy wrapper, for example), they say to just toss it in there and they'll sort it out.

  11. Up until now, I've personally only recycled aluminum cans and plastics at home. Since reading your article, I've reconsidered composting. Great tips here! Did not know that Aveda accepted caps either.

  12. I wish we had composting policies like that here in Florida. I live in a house, so I'm lucky enough to have a few compost piles right outside the kitchen door. I keep food waste in a compost crock, and empty it about every other day.

    My county has curbside recycling, so that's a lot easier.

  13. I tried composting in one of those electric composters, and I went away for three days. I got maggots. I was soooo upset. I cannot stand to throw away food. But luckily, my sister-in-law composts at her house, so I put my food scraps in the freezer and take them to her once in awhile. I feel much better, and when I get a new place, I'm going to find a way to compost, even if it involves worms on the patio. :) I'm just moving in August, so it seems silly to do it now.


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