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Holy green bin!

Last week I asked whether anyone else out there had seen evidence of critters gnawing holes in their City of Ottawa green bins. I was curious because here's what my own bin looked like when I returned from a two-week vacation:

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Turns out I'm not alone. Here's a pic from Dave Bownass:

greenbin1.jpg Here's one from fitforakid blogger Liisa:

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I went for a stroll around my neighbourhood the evening before garbage day. About one third of all the green bins I saw at the curb had been gnawed. Some had holes like mine. At first I suspected those nocturnal bandits, raccoons. Or rats, though I've never seen a rat, dead or alive, anywhere near my house. But according to a couple animal control experts I showed these pictures to, those are squirrel holes. That theory is borne out by this video, shot and posted to YouTube by Marty Price. Apparently it doesn't take one of our fat, black squirrels long to gnaw a sizeable hole through that thick green plastic.

The City recommends menthol vapour rub to repel persistent critters that chew on the lid. But I got the distinct impression no one at City Hall was expecting this level of persistence. A green bin with holes is useless, and needs to be replaced. The good news for homeowners is that getting that replacement is easy, and free. The good news for the City is that the bins are covered under a five-year warranty, so replacing them isn't costing taxpayers anything. For now. Environment Committee chair Maria McRae says she's asking the company that manufactures the bins about the problem. She should also ask why Toronto, which purchased a slightly different model from the same company, and which has had its green bin program running in some neighbourhoods for nine years, hasn't experienced the same damage (there the problem was with the latches, which weren't raccoon proof). Norseman Environmental Products didn't return my calls last week. And after days of badgering the city's communications people, no one's been able to tell me how many residents have called 3-1-1 to request a new bin. The City says it doesn't keep stats on how many bins were chewed through, versus cracked or crushed. But when I called for my new bin, I was asked why, and the 3-1-1 operator dutifully entered "squirrel holes" into her computer. 

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