Green Bin dilemma and Dog Waste to Energy

At Monday night’s Nanaimo Council meeting Councillor Hong as acting mayor requested speakers to give their addresses. People haven’t done that for years. Why was this done? Was it to intimidate the speakers, especially those speaking on the topic of sexual and gender based harassment at the city?

A member of the public questioned why Council approved spending $8 million for new automated garbage trucks and bins in an in-camera meeting. Why wouldn’t this have been voted on at a regular council meeting?

Here is how the big garbage question went:

Resident: When was the vote done on the $8 million garbage trucks and bins?

Hong: we approved the purchase of 6,000 bins and 6 more garbage trucks, discussions were in the open – we have approved the garbage bins and trucks …I thought we did that in a open meeting?

Staff: …March 27th motion was passed [on garbage bins/trucks] at a special meeting…

Kipp: …We debated it in-camera, behind closed doors, not in a public meeting …People didn’t know if it was kosher or not…

Resident: …if you can get away doing that kind of thing in-camera then …why do we need public meetings?!…

CFO: The approval done in-camera is appropriate…minutes of that meeting will come later…

Yoachim: …in-camera stuff is not working for me…we don’t get an agenda until we get here …then there is a million and one amendments…then we get accused of not being transparent…keep it out here so people know the truth…

Fuller: … anything we do can go in-camera…

Green bin dilemma

In 2011, the City of Nanaimo first introduced the green bin organic waste program to Nanaimo residents. Now the City has plans for another type of green bin that can be used by the new automatic garbage trucks.

What are we supposed to do with the old green bins?

So, based on the assumption that everyone drives an SUV or pickup, how many people are going to make the trip to the Public Works office to drop off their green bin? What about for people who don’t have a vehicle?

Does the City of Nanaimo have plans to recycle 40,000 green bins or will they sell them to another municipality to offset the cost of the new ones? Here are a few options:

  • Burn them in our future incinerator (or at the one in Spokane, Washington)
  • Sell them to another municipality
  • Re-purpose them

When Boise, Idaho needed to buy some recycling bins for their park system, they turned the problem over to their youth. High school students designed a recycling bin that could  be attached to the City’s existing trash bins. The Terra Luna bin saved Boise $50,000.

Terra Luna recycling bin

Dog Waste to Energy

Waterloo, Ontario plans to turn dog waste into energy. This city of 100,000 is just a bit larger than Nanaimo but it has identified dog poop as a big problem. And now they have a solution.

“It’s actually a big issue, dog waste. If you look at our municipal litter bins … it’s 40 to 80% dog waste.”

A dog-owner walking their pet will scoop up its waste, just as they would normally. But instead of throwing the bag into a trash can, they put it into a special bin.

Biodegradable bags of dog poop are stored in an underground container for 10 to 14 days. Using a process called anaerobic digestion, a biogas is created which can then be burned for heat and energy.

The drawing below shows the old system of dog waste ending up in the landfill. Next is a new system where dog waste generates energy for park lamps.

Dog waste to energy

Below is a video of a public art project from Cambridge, Massachusetts – “Park Spark” that converts dog waste to a biogas that powers a park light and a burner for making tea: