Toronto

Scarborough man wants green bin redesign as raccoon break-ins continue

A Scarborough resident has written to the mayor calling for a design overhaul of Toronto's green bins after his was breached by raccoons for the fourth time.

City officials say there's still no definitive proof raccoons can get into new bins

Alan Somerset says raccoons have broken into his new green bin four times now, and he wants city hall to start thinking about a new design. (Paul Borkwood/CBC)

Mayor John Tory should wave the white flag of surrender, one Toronto resident says, because unless more security measures are added to the city's new green bins the raccoons will keep on breaking in. 

"The raccoons have won, and we might as well admit it," Alan Somerset wrote in an email to Tory's office this week.

The Scarborough resident wants city hall to consider redesigning the bins in wake of the latest breach. He says his green bin — one equipped with a tighter lid and stiffer handle, delivered by city staff after CBC Toronto covered his first critter-related complaint — was knocked over and opened on the first night he put it out.

But despite Somerset's concerns, city officials maintain there's no conclusive proof that raccoons can open the new bins, which have been rolling out for the past couple years.

Somerset thinks raccoons knock over his green bin, then somehow force the handle open. He's never seen the culprit, so he's not even sure if it's the work of one or several critters. (Alan Somerset/Submitted)

Robert Orpin, Toronto's director of collection and litter operations, says the bins have been a major success, and that the city's only received 15 complaints about creatures getting in.

"It seems a bit odd," he said.

"We have over 400,000 of them and only one is not working properly."

Orpin says he's even open to going to Somerset's house to check out the problem himself. Anyone else who thinks raccoons are getting into their organics should call 311, he said.

'I'm not going to let them win'

Somerset is already tinkering with new designs. His latest idea is a spring-loaded clip that will hold the handle in place, even if raccoons manage to knock the 97-litre bin over. If that doesn't work, he'll try bungee cords, and maybe even a chain and padlock in the future.

"Now, as I say, it's a challenge — and I'm not going to let them win," he said.

Somerset says he'd like to see the city do some research on bins that work like child-proof medicine containers, or have some combinations of buttons to press to get in.

"There needs to be some skill involved," he said.

Orpin says four years of design work — including, yes, letting raccoons try their hardest to get in — went into what Torontonians pull to the curb every week. The bins are also said to have a decade-long lifespan.

"Right now, we're not looking at making any changes to it," he said.

Meanwhile, Somerset says if he does find a cheap fix that actually works, he won't be filing a patent and would gladly help anyone else dealing with a similar issue. When asked if a solution would merit a statue in this city, Somerset laughs.

"No, no. The raccoons will come and knock it over!"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Rieti

Senior producer

John started with CBC News in 2008 as a Peter Gzowski intern in Newfoundland, and holds a master of journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University. As a reporter, John has covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. He now leads a CBC Toronto digital team that has won multiple Radio Television Digital News Association awards for overall excellence in online reporting. You can reach him at john.rieti@cbc.ca.

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