Plastic bags in green bin get committee's OK

Ottawa's environment and climate protection committee has voted to allow residents to start tossing plastic bags into their green bins, despite concerns the change will send a mixed message about the city's drive to become more environmentally friendly.

Changes to the city's contract with Orgaworld will also allow dog waste

The City of Ottawa's environment and climate protection committee voted Monday to allow residents to begin throwing plastic bags and dog waste into their green bins. The change still needs the approval of city council. (Alistair Steele/CBC)

Ottawa's environment and climate protection committee has voted to allow residents to start tossing plastic bags into their green bins, despite concerns the change will send a mixed message about the city's drive to become more environmentally friendly.

On Monday the committee approved the terms of a renegotiated contract with Orgaworld, the company hired to process residential organic waste for the city.

If approved by council, that waste will now include dog feces and plastic bags, previously forbidden. Only committee members Coun. Jeff Leiper and Coun. Catherine McKenney voted against the change.

"It's sending the wrong message," Leiper said following Monday's meeting. "It's at a cost of perpetuating the use of plastics, which is something that as a city we should be trying to diminish."

But city staff said they want to get as many residents as possible to use their green bins, even if that means letting them throw away some plastics.

Ottawa's organic waste diversion rate sits at a relatively disappointing 40 per cent, and the city would like to boost it.

Overcoming the 'ick factor'

It's hoped that by letting residents wrap their organics in plastic bags, it will encourage more people to use the program by reducing the so-called "ick factor" — including maggots in the warmer months,

Coun. Rick Chiarelli said that's the top reason residents tell him they don't use their green bins. Chiarelli said while allowing plastics isn't ideal, if it boosts participation in the program it's the lesser of two evils.

Coun. David Chernushenko, the committee's chair, pointed out that the province hasn't settled on a standard for compostable bags yet, and many councillors balked at their cost anyway. 

The plastic bags that end up in green bins will be filtered out of the final compost product at the Orgaworld plant, but a minute amount of plastic will likely remain, the committee heard.

Council will debate other methods of boosting waste diversion after the next election. Those could include using clear plastic bags to help police residential garbage, or limiting the number of bags allowed at the curb.