Compost slackers be warned, green cart inspectors are watching for slip-ups

Calgary has collected green carts for more than a year, and so-called compost inspectors have seen it all.

Only organics go in the green bins — and no plastic bags

Inspectors from the City of Calgary look in compost bins to ensure they contain only organic materials. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Calgary's so-called green cart inspectors are watching for slip-ups by compost slackers. 

The city has been collecting green cart waste for more than a year, taking household organics and turning it all into compost you can pick up for your garden.

But sometimes garbage gets mixed in with plate scraps, food waste and leaves from the yard. The city's compost inspectors are watching for when that happens.

They conduct spot checks of residents' bins to make sure residents throw out only organic materials.

Anyone caught tossing out a prohibited item, like a plastic bag, has their bin tagged and turned to the side. That signals to compost collectors to leave the bin until the homeowner digs out the offending material.

Compost slackers have so far eluded fines as the city prefers an educational approach.

The CBC's Monty Kruger went along with the compost inspectors this week. You can watch his adventures in the video below:

Compost inspectors watch for trash

4 years ago
Duration 2:10
Calgary sends out staff to ensure residents aren't throwing garbage in the green carts. Anyone caught doing so won't have their bin collected that week.

"Generally, Calgarians are doing a really great job. We see most things in the carts are what's supposed to be in there. The biggest [unwanted] thing we see is plastic bags," waste diversion specialist Laura Hamilton said.

Calgarians should ensure they buy only certified compostable bags. Biodegradable bags are often made of plastic that will simply break down into tiny bits of plastic — and those are garbage.

"There's a lot of confusion out there when you're shopping, too," she said. "It can be tough to figure out what's acceptable."

Laura Hamilton is a waste diversion specialist. She says Calgary's compost is fairly clean. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Calgary's compost does end up being incredibly clean, ranked Category A quality, which is the highest, Hamilton said.

Only between two and five per cent of the compost is contaminated, she said. Workers at the compost plant pick out big chunks of garbage. Machinery filters out the rest.

Hamilton reminds people to use the compostable bags to keep workers safe from pet droppings and dusty items. Those can be unhealthy to breathe in, so the bags keep them contained.

The city inspects green bins and has found contamination rates are only two to five per cent. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

Fat, grease and seafood shells can all be thrown in the green cart, too, as well as tissues — surely a popular item as flu season approaches, Hamilton said.

The city offers a full list of acceptable items online but Hamilton says it can be boiled down to all food and yard waste.

Items that are barred include:

  • Plastic and biodegradable bags.
  • Diapers, sanitary products and wipes.
  • Food and beverage packaging.
  • Plastic cutlery or plates.
  • Treated or painted wood.
  • Fruit and vegetable stickers.
  • Dryer lint and vacuum dirt.
  • Wax or butcher's paper.

Calgary's compost program started rolling out in July 2017. October marks a year since the program was fully implemented.

​​With files from Monty Kruger.


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