Monday, February 14, 2011

Bring home the compostables (Change 106)

Whenever I eat out at a fast food restaurant or take my lunch/dinner to work, I throw out garbage. It's a strange habit, because at home, I'm so careful to make sure everything is as reusable, recyclable and compostable as possible. A lot of the garbage I throw out, when I eat out, is made up of items that are perfectly acceptable to the residential green bin program here, but have no opportunity to be taken out of the waste stream at a commercial level.
I've always made sure that portable lunches were as garbage-less as possible for DH, the kids and myself.  I rarely buy one time use snacks, like yogurt or applesauce, and I always make sure that beverages go in a thermos or reusable bottle.  But for a reason that escapes me, we rarely bring our apple cores, banana peels, or sandwich crusts home.

When I visited PEI two years ago, I was astonished that compost bins could be found everywhere.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  One the street, in the restaurants, in the malls - no location was without.  It made me wish that my province, heck even my city, had the political will to enforce such a policy.  My wish has finally come true for the residential sector of the city of Ottawa, but corporate participation is still unavailable.

So I've decided to start bringing the compostables home with me.  It's easy enough to slip an apple core or banana peel into a reusable container already in the lunch box.    I'll ask DH and the kids to bring their food waste home from school and work.  And when I'm at McDonald's or Subway, I'll pack a "take-out" bag of compostable sandwich wraps, drink cartons and food leftovers.  I may look a little strange, I suppose, but at least I won't feel guilty about contributing to the growing landfill problem.


  1. Excellent idea! And something I am going to add in to my already bringing my own take-out containers for the food I know for sure I'll eat later. But never thought of carrying a sack for the rest! Awesome!

  2. When you say that corporate participation is still unavailable, do you mean businesses are not allowed to collect compost? I've been wondering, because some places (like Bridgehead cafes) do collect compost along with recycling and garbage, but Starbucks, Tim Horton's, and most other places, as far as I know, do not.

  3. Hey Deb - glad you like the idea. I tried it out last night for the first time and it worked really well. We were at McDonald's, and I just used one of the paper bags our food came in. It was AMAZING at how little we actually threw into the garbage - straws, lids and honey packets. Everything else came home.

    Melissa - when I say corporate participation is unavailable, I mean that the city of Ottawa does not provide commercial customers with a green bin or removal services. If a commercial customer wishes to compost, that company has to pay for its own collection and removal services, much like it has to pay for its own recycling services. However, from what I can see around the city, most businesses are not choosing either option.

  4. oh, my, I just recently started keeping some containers in the car to take with me to bring home leftovers from restaurant meals. Never occurred to me to also bring home the stuff I will NOT be eating later. will have to try that!

  5. I've been doing this a lot lately, and it hasn't been hard at all. Good luck to everyone.

    Melissa - a quick, and interesting update re: commercial green bins. I was on a training course today with the City, and there, in the cafeteria of the building, was a green bin. I guess the City feels it ought to lead by example....