By Marc Venema
East end Belleville resident Joanne Thompson has a new routine when it comes to putting out the garbage.
Instead of scraping all her food scraps into the wet garbage, she now uses new green organic bins provided by the city.
“I think it’s a good idea for the city because all that stuff, if it can be turned into re-usable materials, it makes sense to me,” Thompson said.
The city chose 700 homes in Thompson’s east-end area to test out a pilot project that sees residents putting their food scraps and peelings in a special bin which is picked up weekly at the regular scheduled garbage pick-up. Instead of going to a landfill where the waste would go when simply put in the wet garbage, it will now be processed and sold at a later date as compost.
Each home involved in the test run has two bins. A small bin for inside the house and a larger bin, about the size of a garbage can for roadside pickup.
Tom Lafferty, Belleville Councilor and head of the Green Task Force committee is one of the people behind the project.
“I started on a committee with Quinte Waste Solutions, we started working on this program probably about four years ago,” Lafferty said.
The program was officially started this past fall.
“There was money available in the budget from our waste solutions budget, so that’s when we rolled it out,” Lafferty said. “It was a six-month pilot project and we chose the 700 homes in that area because the diversification of it and it was a huge hit.”
“We had people calling saying ‘is this going to go full time?’ and we had incredible participation,” Lafferty said. “We knew there was support but we have had 85 per cent participation in the program, which is just unheard of for any pilot project we have ever done.”
The 85 per cent participation number was tracked by garbage truck drivers.
He said the program has so far been a huge success in its short life, reducing residential waste by 45 per cent after taking out the recycling.
“It’s pretty phenomenal the response we have had for it.”
Lafferty said more money was put into the project during budget time on April 1st. He said it was then determined that this would no longer be a pilot project, but a permanent program in the city.
“We are just trying to finalize the contract and then we will start moving to other homes. You will probably see early fall, we will pick another area of the city, another 2,3,400 homes.”
Brad Wilson, director of environmental and operational services with the city of Belleville, said the program offers residents a chance to help the environment and possibly save a few bucks by cutting back on bag tags.
“It’s an opportunity for them to get rid of the organics portion of their waste in another manner and not put it out with the garbage.”
“Placing your organics at curbside, there is no bag tag required.”
Thompson said she has seen the difference firsthand.
“I can probably squeeze another week or two out of a garbage tag.”
She does have one of problems with the program though.
“In the summer, I find that it’s pretty smelly, so in the heat I actually haven’t used it for the last couple weeks.
“If you put it in the garage, it smells in there, if you put it outside, it’s usually out in the sun somewhere.”
Still, she said that won’t stop her from using it when it cools off again.
“I probably will use it again,” Thompson said. “It does reduce garbage by a lot.”
Just around the corner from Thompson’s residence are Howard and Dorris McGreer.
The elderly couple will be the first to admit that they don’t use their own green bin.
“I just know how to open the thing, that’s all,” Howard said.
However, they still take advantage of the new program. Howard said they don’t produce enough waste of their own to put out their bin so he takes a stroll down the road and puts his waste in a neighbour’s bin.
Not everyone uses the bins in the test area though. Two residents who asked not to be named, said they didn’t use them due to not having enough waste, but both said they would participate if they had bigger families, meaning more food and scraps.
The program is also taking off in Trenton. Another 700 homes are participating in a pilot project there.