This topic keeps coming up and I thought I would give my own explanation and provide some answers to explain to residents why council made certain decisions concerning waste management.
Did you know that recent studies stated that Canadians produce more garbage per capita than any other country on earth? As well, you should know that “the only landfill in the Montreal area will no longer have room in 10 years. It is urgent to reduce the amount of waste we bury, say the regional authorities, who are pressing Quebec to put the solutions in place” (source: La Presse July 2019).
Saint-Lazare was one of the last municipalities in our MRC to implement a door to door composting collection. It is clear that all municipalities have to rethink their waste management strategies. We still have a long way to go!
The Quebec provincial government has an objective to banish all organic matter going to landfills by 2020. In order to meet the ban target issued by the government, a regulatory framework has to be put in place to prohibit the disposal of organic matter with household waste.
MRC and CMM
The member municipalities of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) are subject to the Plan métropolitain de gestion des matières résiduelles (PMGMR). Saint-Lazare is part of the CMM. One of the responsibilities of municipalities within the CMM is to implement a door-to-door collection service for all organic materials for homes of eight units or less by December 31, 2020 (Source: http://mrcvs.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/pmgmr.pdf).
Here are a few questions I often get asked.
Composting (brown bin)
Why do we need to compost?
The provincial government is banning organic waste going to landfill by 2020. As a result, the CMM and MRC requires that municipalities implement a door to door compost collection.
What you need to know is that putrescible materials are the main source of contamination in landfill sites. In landfills, their decomposition in the absence of oxygen produces malodorous, explosive gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. The organic compounds released by the decomposition migrate with leachates and can contaminate surface and groundwater, making them unfit for human consumption and even harmful to aquatic life. Removing putrescible materials from the waste stream therefore reduces the pollutant load in disposal sites and can be a valuable source of compost, which helps improve soil quality while cutting back on the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
I do my own backyard compost, why do I need to pay for this?
Backyard composts are awesome, keep doing it! But did you know that certain things that don’t usually go in backyard compost can go in city composts (example: meat, bones, dairy products). So you may be able to use your brown bin after all!
As well, for a variety of reasons, the majority of people don’t do backyard composting. Therefore, in order to service the majority of residents and to make sure we provide the service to encourage the reduction of organic waste going to landfill, we need to implement composting across the board.
Composting attracts animals, maggots and it stinks, forget it!
All those can be true but there are solutions and it’s definitely not a reason to get discouraged or stop composting. Other cities across the country are doing this successfully, we all need to put in some effort!
- Use paper bags or line the bottom of your brown and kitchen bins with newspaper;
- Rinse the bin with water and a mild detergent or vinegar once in a while;
- Sprinkle a bit of baking soda in the brown and kitchen bins;
- Add layers of paper (lasagna method);
- Store your bin in the shade, away from the sun;
- Put your bin out for every collection, even if it contains only a small amount of waste;
- Keep the cover of your bin tightly closed at all times
- Wrap your meat, chicken and fish leftovers in newspaper or in a paper bag before putting them in the bin
- Put meat and bones in your freezer and take it out before collection;
- Sprinkle some salt in the bin or spray with vinegar
- Keep your bin in the garage
- Put Vicks vapor rub on the lid
- Use the tips on odors to reduce the smell that may attract animals
Why can’t we put grass clippings and weeds in town compost?
If green residues were allowed, the brown bins would be filled with leaves and weeds which wouldn’t leave any room for table waste. Keep in mind that there are green waste collections throughout the year (leaves and branches) which can be used instead. As well, it’s important to know that the treatment plant in Lachute doesn’t accept green waste.
Can we get our compost back after being treated at the transformation plant?
Great question! Eventually it may be possible but nothing yet has been worked out yet so keep an eye out for more information on this.
Garbage (black bin)
Why is the town of Saint-Lazare switching to garbage collection to every two weeks?
The idea was researched and discussed in great detail by the environmental committee and recommendations were given to town council. It was clear that the need to reduce waste going to landfill was urgent. In order to encourage composting and to promote change, we needed to give residents a reason to change their daily habits. By reducing the frequency of garbage, residents will need to reduce what goes in their black bins (garbage) and make a conscious effort to compost. *Please see question about why we need to compost above.
Why did we switch the garbage collection to every 2 weeks in July?
Our garbage contract had to be renewed for January 1st 2019 but the brown bins were not ready for delivery until March-April. In order to make sure that people had an option and could cope, we waited until the brown bin collection was in place in May and after the moving season to switch to garbage collection every two weeks. Because this is a permanent decision, we would have had to face summer months eventually. As well, by composting it reduces the need for weekly garbage pickup.
How about the smell in the summer?
Organic waste is mostly what smells. By composting, you’re transferring your organic waste from your black bin to your brown bin which is picked up weekly. Odors for most people should not be an issue if composting properly. What you will have left in your garbage is what you can’t compost or recycle.
How about diapers, people with incontinence issues, female hygiene products and pets?
True, diapers, incontinence products, female hygiene products and pet excrement can’t be recycled or composted. We suggest to put that kind of waste in a garbage bag in your black bin, keep your garbage bin out of the sun and tightly closed. If you have a lack of space in your black bin, you can bring any surplus to the municipal garage during regular business hours. Council did have discussions on this topic and is studying possible options if it becomes problematic. It’s important to note that for the average families in other municipalities across the country who also have garbage collections every 2-4 weeks, it doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Ottawa: garbage every 2 weeks
Toronto: garbage every 2 weeks
Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot: garbage every 2 weeks
Rimouski: From November to March every four weeks. From April to October every 2 weeks
Morin-Heights: garbage every 2 weeks
Ste-Adèle: garbage every 2 weeks
St-Sauveur: garbage every 2 weeks
Saint-Joseph-du-Lac: garbage every 2 weeks
Are you not reducing the service provided to residents?
Yes, we took away two garbage collections per month but the town of Saint-Lazare hasn’t reduced the “overall” waste collection service to residents with these changes. Before these changes, the waste collection was 4 times per month. Now, we have a total of 6 collections per month (2 garbage + 4 composting). In addition, we provide a monthly bulk item collection, weekly recycling, branch collections a few times per year, leaves and green residue pickup twice per year, and a cardboard collections.
Saint-Lazare has tried this a few years ago and it didn’t work!
Actually this is not really true. Yes, the previous council tried to change garbage collection to every two weeks a few years ago but had never offered the option of composting. Because more than half of what goes in the garbage is compostable, having the option of transferring your organic waste to a brown bin is something that Saint-Lazare didn’t have before and should make it much easier for residents to make the switch.
Are we saving money since we’re reducing the frequency of garbage collection?
Honestly, although we’re removing two garbage collections per month, we’re adding 4 composting collections per month so in the end, no money will be saved. The good news is that the provincial government currently has a program which pays municipalities fees for the reduction of residual materials going to landfills (redevances à l’élimination des matières résiduelles). So this means, the less garbage we send to landfill, the more money we get back (source: http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/matieres/pgmr/).
Are there any other changes coming up I should know?
Yes, starting in February 2020, the option to use a second garbage bin during the monthly bulky item pickup will be removed. This is also aimed at reducing waste going to landfill. Note that the monthly bulky item collection will remain.
Problems with your bin or collection?
If you have issues with your garbage, composting or recycling (broken bin or not picked up), you can get in touch with the public works department 450-424-8000 ext 250 or fill out an online request.
We understand change is not always easy and some people will remain unhappy about this, no matter what explanation we provide. It is important to keep in mind the end goal in these efforts to reduce our output of garbage to landfills. Unfortunately, it seems that our society and government wait for a crisis before making changes.
Last June, the House of Commons passed a motion to declare a national climate emergency in Canada. Catherine McKenna stated that Canada’s facing a climate emergency. Climate change is an urgent threat to our environment, our health, our economy, and our future. A scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) released in April found that Canada is warming up at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that the warming effect is “effectively irreversible.”
Climate change is driven by human activity, we all need to do our part to ensure that our children have a future. In my opinion, composting and reducing garbage frequency is really taking a very small step toward that goal.
Anymore questions? Let me know!
Read (in French)
Le Devoir: Des gestes insuffisants pour l’environnement
Terms you should know
Black bins: garbage
Brown bins: composting
Blue bins: recycling
Organic waste: Organic waste is material that is biodegradable and comes from either a plant or an animal. Organic waste is usually broken down by other organisms over time. Most of the time, it is made up of vegetable and fruit debris, paper, bones, which quickly disintegrate.
Ultimate waste: materials that can no longer be reused, recycled or reclaimed, going for disposal.
Putrescible: liable to become putrid (putrid: in a state of foul decay or decomposition)
Greenhouse effect: the problem caused by increased quantities of gases such as carbon dioxide in the air. These gases trap the heat from the sun, and cause a gradual rise in the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere.