Racoon 1, Me 0

Yesterday, Mr. Racoon paid me a visit.  I had forgotten to lock the green bin with bungee cords this week, so the racoon tipped it over and was noshing on the contents by the time I got outside.  The funny thing is that the bin had food waste in it for a few days, without any visitors.  I have been putting the waste in a sturdy paper bag in the green bin…maybe the bag had been containing any smells and maybe I didn’t close the bag well enough yesterday?

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game on!

The neighbourhood raccoons, squirrels and flies’ love affair with my garbage predates the green bin program.  I’m starting to outsmart them. 

For the next five weeks, I’ll keep track of how successful I am with keeping pests out of the garbage can and green bin–I keep both receptacles outdoors.  Sometimes they stay empty for days after garbage pickup.  The day that I first put garbage in the receptacle, it’s game on.  If the animal tries to get at the garbage, but wasn’t successful:  one point for me.  If the animal, usually racoon, gets into the garbage:  one point for Raccoon.  I can potentially have two games running at once:  Green Bin Game and Garbage Can Game, but they won’t always start and stop at the same time.  When I put the bin or can to the road, the match ends. 

Starting April 15th, 2012,  it’s game on for the green bin and the garbage (trash) can.  I’ll keep a running tally on this page, with updates on Twitter.

Green Game

  • Match 1:  Start Apr. 15, 2012  ran 3 nights, score:  0-0    
  • Match 2: Start Apr. 20, 2012  ran 6 nights, score:  Racoon 1, Me 0 
  • Match 3: Start Apr. 27, 2012   ran 6 nights, score:  Racoon 1, Me 2 (Mr. Racoon attempted to get in the bin twice in one day, but I’m only counting that as one of my points)     
  • Match 4: Start May 7, 2012    ran 2 nights, score:  Racoon 0, Me 2
  • Match 5: Start May 12, 2012  ran 4 nights, score:  Racoon 0, Me 0                              

Trash Game

  • Match 1:   Start Apr. 15, 2012  ran 3 nights, score: 0-0
  • Match 2:   Start Apr. 20, 2012  ran 13 nights, score: Racoon 1, Me 0 (Mr. Racoon didn’t score a point until the last day)
  • Match 3:   Start May 9, 2012    ran 8 nights, score: 0-0

using the black box

Like the little black dress, your black box is versatile must-have.  In a pinch, you can also use the black box as an extra blue box for recyclables other than paper.  The black box is super-useful because it can hold a lot of paper and boxes that would otherwise take up a lot of space in the garbage.

If you are just starting to recycle, paper and cardboard are the easiest things to start with.  

Here’s how it works at our place:

We keep the black box out of sight in the basement.  We used to tuck it into the back of our entranceway closet, which was super-convenient for quickly ditching junk mail before it starts reproducing in some dark corner…seriously!  Amid some repainting and reorganizing last summer, the black box got relegated to the basement.

I think the biggest challenge is actually getting the paper and cardboard to the black box…without having a cluttering little pile of recyclables on the counter or near the stairs to the basement. 

At my place, the kitchen is where we regularly generate the most garbage and recyclables. 

I saw the coolest thing at some friends’ house a while back:  a two-compartment kitchen garbage can.  I recently bought one.  We put garbage on one side and paper/cardboard and other recyclables on the other side.  This system works so much better than the pile system:  no clutter and a container to easily take a worthwhile bunch of newspapers, cardboard egg cartons and cereal boxes and the like to the basement.

You could also look into an under-the-sink pull-out systems with multiple compartments, although these usually cost much more.  Another idea in an extra waste basket or bucket dedicated to recyclables.

The trick is to figure out what makes things easiest for your household, with a focus on the spaces where you typically generate the most paper and cardboard waste.

Good luck, and please share new ideas

How much each week?

an ongoing list of how much garbage and recycling my family puts to the road each week:

2012

First week of April:       one garbage can, one black box and one green bin

Second week of April:   one blue box and one green bin

Third week of April:      one garbage can, one black box and one green bin, plus two empty cardboard boxes that didn’t fit in the black box

Fourth week of April:   one blue box and one green bin

First week of May:        one garbage can, one black box and one green bin

Second week of May:    one blue box and one green bin

Third week of May:      one garbage can, a crib mattress, a furnace filter, two black boxes (I had a backlog of shredded paper), one green bin

Fourth week of May:   2 “blue” boxes (my black box served as an extra blue box filled with recyclables a neighbour and I collected from a park) and one green bin

First week of June:      2 recycling bins of paper/cardboard, an empty box, one garbage can and one green bin

Second week of June:  2 “blue” boxes and one green bin

Third week of June:     1 black box, one garbage can and one green bin

Fourth week of June:   1 green bin

Fifth week of June:       1 black box, one garbage can and one green bin 

First week of July:        2 blue boxes and one green bin

Second week of July:    1 black box, one garbage can, one furnace filter, and one green bin

Third week of July:       1 blue box and one green bin

Fourth week of July:     1 black box, one garbage can, one crib frame, and one green bin

First week of August:    1 blue box and one green bin

Second week of August: 1 black box, one garbage can, and one green bin

Third week of August:    2 “blue” boxes and one green bin

Fourth week of August:  1 black box, one garbage can, a furnace filter and one green bin

Fifth week of August:      1 blue box and one green bin

First week of September: 1 black box, one garbage can, and one green bin

Second week of September: 1 blue box and one green bin

Third week of September:    1 black box, one garbage can, and one green bin

Fourth week of September:  1 blue box and one green bin

First week of October:             1 black box, one garbage can and a garbage bag, and one green bin

Second week of October:        1 blue box and one green bin

Third week of October:            1 black box, and one green bin (now that the rest of the City is going to biweekly garbage pickup, I needed to get in sync with a new schedule:  garbage will be picked up the same week as the blue bin)

Fourth week of October:         1 blue box and one garbage can and one green bin

 Fifth week of October:             1 green bin (I forgot to take out the black bin)

For anyone not familiar with Ottawa’s recycling system:

Black box:  paper and cardboard

Blue box:   plastic, metal and glass recyclables

Green bin: compostable waste

my garbage story, or this is how my family generates less than one can of trash per week

I’ve been dealing with garbage for a long time. 

…or how I cut down from a two to five per week habit to a less than one per week habit:

It goes back to my childhood…Ah yes, there I am in my fluorescent orange T-shirt and faded overalls riding my fluorescent pink and sky blue skateboard back up the driveway…

I load another garbage can onto the skateboard and pull it down the driveway.  Repeat.  I lived in a household of five, plus my dad had a small home-based business. It was the late `80s inCornwall:  acid-washed jeans were cool, and fine paper recycling was just starting to catch on at school. 

We produced in the ballpark of 2 to 5 cans of garbage. 

Every week.

Fast forward to 2012.  Today, my family of four produces between 1/2 to 2/3 of a can of garbage per week. 

How did I get from there to here?  My household changed its habits over time:  we recycle a lot, and I’ve found ways to minimize the amount of garbage we produce.

I look for ways to reduce the amount of non-recyclable garbage we produce;  I think of ways to make it more convenient to make waste-reduction a habit.  

The key is continuous improvement of habits.

My goal, this summer, is to only produce 1/2 a can of garbage per week, and only take out the garbage every second week.

I’ll blog on my thoughts and progress.  I’ll ask for your feedback and ideas.  Every month, I’ll focus on a different theme.  Even though the mantra is ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ in that order of priority, I’ll focus on recycling first since I think that’s the easiest way to quickly reduce your amount of ‘garbage’.

I’ll share my experience as a sort of case-study only.  If you’re looking for detailed information about the City of Ottawa’s waste management services and recycling programs, please visit www.ottawa.ca.