Picture of the Week: Recycling

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Garbage Day, Ottawa, September 2011

When I lived in France, doing the garbage involved hauling full bags from the second floor of the building to the huge stinky bin across the street. It was often overflowing but we didn’t really have a choice—you can’t keep waste too long in a small apartment, there is just no room for it.

Later, we started separating plastic and taking it to a new recycling bin a few blocks away. Plastic is cleaner (and not as stinky) so we didn’t make the trip as often.

In Ottawa, household waste (i.e. non recycle waste) is collected at the curb once a week. We also have two boxes for recyclable waste: a black one for paper and a blue one for glass, metal and plastic. These boxes are picked up on alternating weeks, black box one week and blue box the other. It’s actually funny to see that most people can’t remember which box to put outside and they tend to copy their neighbour—if one person gets the wrong box and entire row does too!

Recycling plastic, metal, glass and paper feels completely natural now. We store both bins in the garage and fill them up little by little during the week.

However, I’m not convinced by the Green Bin Program which aims at collecting organic waste. Basically, you are supposed to separate your food scrap and put it in a small kitchen bin, collected weekly. First, the paper bag to use for the bin is expensive  (about $1 for a tiny bag). Second, food waste really stinks and attracts all kind of insects. After finding the bin covered in maggots, we just gave up. People suggest freezing the food waste until collection day but seriously, I have better things to do.

How does garbage collection work where you live?


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I live in a small city near Milan and we’ve separated organic waste for years now. We use small capped trash cans and inside we put a plastic bag and an organic one. It’s usually made of corn or something similar, that decomposes after a few weeks. We have big trash cans in our garages (I live in a condo), so I throw the organic bag (that contains the food) in the organic trash can, and the plastic bag in the plastic trash can. I keep all the garbage on my balcony and (if I don’t leave the lid open) I’ve never had problems with insects.
    Maybe you can find organic bags in Ottawa too?

    • I stayed at an apartment in Rome during my vacation and I thought the organic waste recycling system was excellent!

      Zhu, I think it would be a shame if you guys completely gave up on it. Since you saw maggots, you must’ve thrown out meat. Try wrapping/covering stinkier bits of food with used paper towels or shredded newspaper. I mean, it doesn’t make sense to throw out organic materials in the trash and have it be burned!!

      Anyway, love reading your blog. This is my first time posting 🙂 You just happened to hit a nerve with this topic…

      • Hi Linda,

        Nice to meet you!

        I feel bad throwing organic waste and I agree, it’s a shame. We typically don’t have a lot of meat but mostly vegetable/fruit peels. I guess Canadian maggots are vegetarian 😆

        I’ll try your trick (I use paper towel anyway) and see if it work. Stupid question, but is it okay to wrap organic waste in newspapers/paper towels? That’s another one my dilemma, I sometimes hesitate as to what can be recycled.

        • Hi Zhu,

          The maggots are a bit of a mystery then…ewww maybe they’re eating other insects. They totally creep me out too.

          It’s ok to put paper products with your organics. I use a backyard composter and I learned at a seminar that we should always cover a “green” layer (eg. food scraps) with a “brown” layer (eg. newspaper, dry leaves, dry grass) to minimize pests and odour and to help convert the green layer faster into compost. Oh, and egg shells should be rinsed out as well. One good tip I learned for the layering is to line a large bowl with newspaper or just lay a page of it on the counter when you’re preparing meals, pile your peelings there, and then scrunch up the paper.

          Glad you’re willing to give it another go. Good luck!


          • And another tip if none of the others work. Adding coffee grounds makes the bin smell good, lol. If you don’t make coffee at home, you could ask your neighbour or Starbucks 🙂 I don’t know if it’s also the case in Ottawa, but in Vancouver, you can go into any Starbucks and ask them for their coffee grounds.

          • That’s an awesome idea! My, where do you get all these tips?

            I love the smell of coffee grounds and it’s easy to find. Okay, that’s it, no more excuse. NO MORE! 😆 I shall invite you home and show you my perfect home-recycling installation 🙂

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s funny because when I read “Italy” I immediately thought of the infamous garbage collections strike(s)! Turned out that you are doing a better job than I do 😆

      I’ll look into organic bags again. I hate to sound cheap but when we first received the bin, we checked in various stores and they were over $1 per bags (tiny kitchen bags) so we didn’t buy them.

      I’ve had more issues with insects in Canada than in Europe. It’s very humid here in the summer!

  2. In our country/city we have people for collecting garbage for a monthly sum. They go door to door and collect it daily. They then throw it into a garbage place in the colony. This garbage place is emptied on weekly basis by municipality.

    Here is the catch.
    Most of the time this bigger garbage place overflows with garbage coming in from many buildings, it stinks and stray cows/dogs make it further bad.

    Most of the time there is no segregation of recyclable waste and otherwise.

  3. Oh man, its so hard to do all that, I never had to do in my life before!! Our collection schedule is every other week (except organic, which is weekly). The annoying thing is that there is a park nearby and my house is the first one to the park, so random people just throw garbage in my bins. Can I claim that I am helping the needy? 😀

Leave A Reply