Opinion Column

City needs to combat the gross factor of green bins

By Ada Slivinski, 24 Hours Vancouver

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

This week, a friend of mine sent me a text full of capital letters and exclamation marks.

She had found maggots in her green bin and swore she wouldn’t go near the thing again. A few days later, I was completely disgusted to find the same situation in my bin. When I opened the lid to empty my kitchen container, the whole plastic bin was crawling with miniature white worms. From now on, taking out the compost is officially my husband’s job.

We’re not the only ones. In the first three months of the green bin program, over 4,000 complaints were filed – with problems ranging from rodents to maggots to missed collections. The waste container cleaning company, VIP Bin Cleaning, saw a spike in their business after the bins were implemented.

Aside from how disgusting the experience is, maggots come with a whole host of health risks. The common house fly carries on it up to 100 different types of pathogens. If a child or pet accidentally ingests a maggot (fly larvae), it can lead to a condition called myiasis - basically a parasitic infestation of the body. And let’s not forget about the increase in fly numbers. Green bins full of food scraps are the perfect breeding ground and those maggots eventually turn into flies.

As part of the green bin program, Metro Vancouver residents are encouraged to throw not only apple cores and potato peels in the bin, but things that you wouldn’t put in your backyard composter – chicken bones and bacon fat for example. If the city is going to ask for this kind of refuse to be left in a plastic bin in the hot sun, they better have a plan for combating some of the problems that come with it.

At the moment, green bins are collected only once a week and garbage every other week (a change that was implemented at the outset of the green bin program). A solid place to start would be upping collection times. Collecting green bins twice a week would interrupt the gestation cycle of flies, which lasts about four days.

Of course, many other ideas have been floated that put more of the onus on the green bin user. Freezing food scraps is the most popular suggestion. I know my freezer wouldn’t be able to hold a week’s worth of our family’s scraps and I can’t imagine many of the city’s apartment-sized ones would either.

Composting can be a really beautiful thing – turning food waste into rich nutritious plant food but the way it’s being implemented in the city only turns people off the process altogether. If Vancouver really wants to be the “Greenest City” by 2020, we need to start putting some more thought into how we compost, or else we run the risk of becoming the world’s grossest city.