COLUMN: Getting on board the green bandwagon

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It’s inevitable.

Introduce any new program or change to people’s routines and conveniences, and the complaining starts.

So it is with the new composting initiative in Abbotsford.

Beginning last week, homeowners (houses, not condos or apartments) are expected to separate their garbage into recyclables, compostable waste, and trash that can’t be recycled or composted.

Composting/yard waste is picked up weekly. Trash gets emptied every other week.

According to some, this is impractical, unworkable, inconvenient, confusing, unhealthy, and downright just a major pain in the can.

To them, I say with a smile, oh put a lid on it.

We are faced with the same critical issue as every other urban community around the globe. What to do with all the trash we create?

Enter the concept of recycling – something hardly on the radar 20 years ago, other than pop and beer cans.

Yet here we are today, converting a monumental amount of former trash into usable products and materials.

But yard and food waste still make up as much or more than half of the remaining trash stream. And as we fill up massive holes in the ground with millions of tons of garbage, or send it into the atmosphere as particulate matter and nasty chemicals, it’s obvious the next step is to remove the compostables.

Other cities have had residential composting for years.

Ottawa, for instance, went the residential composting route about four years ago. Calgary started in 2012.

The City of Vancouver climbed on board the green train with a pilot project in 2011. It is now using green bins, which are the size of a large trash can. They, too, are emptied every other week.

Surrey went a similar route last year as well. The city issued under-sink compost collection buckets, as Abbotsford did.

Surrey uses a combination of black, blue and green bins – distributed by the city.

Abbotsford didn’t provide those, irking some residents, who think that ought to have been a no-brainer.

Yet in Surrey, one of the main complaints has been ... the bins!

Too big. Too heavy. Too smelly. Too complex.

And then there’s the griping common to virtually all composting programs – storing food waste under the sink. Too messy. Too smelly. Too much bother. Too expensive (to buy compostable liners for the buckets).

As with all city-wide programs and initiatives, it’s impossible to satisfy everyone.

I’d prefer the bin system. I can’t quite grasp the concept of putting recyclables into a special blue bag, that also has to be recycled.

But this composting program? In my family, it works just fine. We don’t buy plastic liners for the little bucket. It’s already plastic, for heaven’s sake! Empty it once a day, and wash it out, and there’s no smell.

Trash pick-up only every two weeks? Separate all the compostables out of the kitchen garbage, and it’s amazing how little actual trash remains.

Smelly in the summer? Could be. We may have to freeze the smelly stuff for a few days, or mix it well with yard waste.

Is it inconvenient? Compared to throwing everything into a few cans and forgetting about it at the curb, you bet. Does it require some effort? Sure. Looking after the environment generally does.

And that’s the point – we need to do this – and a little willingness can make it work.

Recall the initial transition from plastic grocery bags to reusable cloth bags. That was met with howls of anguish and derision, too. And yet, look at a line of shoppers in any major grocery store now, and you’ll see many of them with their own cloth bags.

Oh sure, there are no doubt some folks who are still in a fuss over that concept, too. But while they’re still holding their breath and turning blue, the rest of us are getting green.

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