Tuesday, April 12, 2011

York's Bad Move with the Green Bin: A Follow Up

As mentioned in the first post, the Region of York has mandated that effective May 1st all York Region residents will be required to use certified compostable bags in their Green Bins.  Otherwise Green Bin waste not be picked up.  Since the first post I've done some digging on prices as well further reaction has come forth from those affected.

I've recently completed a price analysis on purchasing compostable bags from major stores in the Richmond Hill area.  Below are the cheapest bags I could find at each location.  They are the smallest "kitchen catcher" bags (i.e. for smaller containers for under the counter) and all regular Green Bin bags cost more (around $0.25 to $0.60 per bag on average).  Here is what I found (before taxes):

Dollarama: 10 bags for $2.00 = $0.20 per bag.
Home Depot: 30 bags for $3.99 = $0.13 per bag
No Frills: 20 bags for $5.49 = $0.27 per bag
Wal-Mart: 50 bags for $7.49 = $0.15 per bag
(Note: These were Sold out when I was there)
Zellers:  20 bags for $4.99 = $0.25
Now with the above pricing in mind, lets paint a picture of an average week for, lets say, a family of four people without a Costco membership.  

Currently, my wife and I would normally fill one kitchen catcher bag plus maybe a half of a second one.  So lets give the family four two kitchen catcher bags at the Home Depot price of $0.13 per bag (total of $0.26 bags for kitchen catcher bags per week then lets say there is one large bag to hold the two small bags and a little more of the compostables at a price of $0.25 per bag (if your lucky to find them) for a grand total of $0.50 per week to merely through out your compostables extra. 

Extra? Yes, I currently use shopping bag in my kitchen one and go through one or two worth a week for free.  I get my free grocery bags from the local Wal-Mart when I do grocery shopping there.  Thus, because the Region of York believes this will be better for the Green Bin program an average family of four will have to be dealing with a $0.50 weekly increase or an extra $26.00 per year just to use the Green Bin program before the 13% HST in Ontario.

Now I've had reports from commenters on the previous post that the bags are available from Costco at $12.00 for a box of 200 (or $0.06 per bag) in the St. Catherines, Ontario area or a box of 100 for $10.00 (or $0.10 per bag) in Richmond Hill which I presume is for the larger green bin bags.  I would suggest the kitchen catcher size is the same.  I can only go on what the comments posted have said as I currently do not have a Costco membership.  I do know someone with a Costco membership though and may purchase a mass amount through them.  But unless a family knows someone with a Costco membership, has one themselves, the Costco membership option may not be a financially feasable option due to the extra cost of the Costco card on a yearly basis.  Thus, for everyone purchasing the bags at Costco may not be a financially viable option.

Another update is the reaction from the Council of the Town of Markham.  The Council has ruled that the By-law passed by the Region of York will not be enforced in the town of Markham until a new date until further notice.   Markham Council has delayed the implementation in order to study the ramifications of the change as well as to take the time to review their diversion of waste from landfill tactics.  This decision to delay by Markham may only create issues between the Town of Markham and the Region of York.  Currently it is the local municipalities who complete curbside colleciton and the region looks after taking the bulk material from the municipalities to the composter or whoever will take it. So basically what the Region of York has said by passing the By-law for the use of compostable bags only is that no plastic bags will be accepted from the compost material handed over by the municipalities.  So Markham's move to allow residents to continue to use plastic bags in the meantime creates a question: what will the Region do when Markham's trucks come rolling in after the May 1st Regional deadline, will they be refused?  If so where will these trucks dump their loads? Markham Town Hall?. 

What is even more amusing is five members of the twenty one member Council of the Region of York originate from the Council of the Town of Markham.  Did not one of these members of Markham Town Council speak up at the Region of York with reservations about the passing of the Regional By-law and the need for more study?

A further issue was brought forth by Markham's Manager of Waste Management, Claudia Marsales.  In the Yorkregion.com article she points out that Markham's contractor for curbside pick-up, Miller Waste, will probably decline to inspect the bags due to health and safety issues as the bags contain pet waste and diapers amongst other items.  So with the health and safety issues as a possibility, will the other curb side contractors for other municipalities also reject the requirement to inspect the bags?  Probably.  Thus, there is a possibility the Region of York's By-law may be declined as the contractors who pickup refuse to discriminate between plastic and compostable plastic due to health and safety issues under the province's Workplace Health & Safety Act.

Overall, the Region of York's new By-law requirement that all residents as of May 1st have no option but to use compostable bags seems to be falling apart.  First the cost to residents is a significant negative and now the Region's second largest municipality, Markham, has refused to go along.  Added to this is the possibility that many of the region's contracted collection companies may refuse to inspect the bags under York's By-law due to their right to refuse work under the provinces Workplace Health & Safety Act. Further to this mess is that much of York's 2010 Green Bin Material ended up in either in landfill or being incinerated anyway due to supply chain issues.  So far it looks like the Region of York's attempt at implementing the compostable bag requirement within a successful Green Bin program may have been a noble reason that has turned into one big sopping stinky wet mess of compost. 


  1. Michael, this is really good article and very informative.

    I support Markham for not accepting this by-law - I am preparing post also, and I think that they didn't do proper studies.

    Lol - Dollarama: 10 bags for $2.00 = $0.20 per bag - I thought that Dollarama supposed to be cheaper of them all.

    Thanks for the price search on this one too.

    Anna :)

    PS thanks for your comments on my blog. I replied to the recent one, still searching for a good subscribe form.

  2. Anna:

    Dollarama sometimes can be a good place to find deals. However, I've learned you cannot depend on stores who claim to have the best prices, to actually have the best prices.

    No Frills "Won't Be Beat" claim is a farce. For the past month as an example, I've yet to complete grocery shopping without asking the cashier to price match items with a major local competitor that No Frills recognizes (e.g. Food Basics, Price Chopper, Sobeys, Loblaws, etc.).

    One of the funniest things I've found is the price of Milk at No Frills. A couple of years ago Weston Ltd. (the parent company of Loblaws Companies Limited which No Frills is part of) sold off Neilson to Saputo. Now one would think as part of the deal Weston would get a decent price structure for purchasing milk for it's LCL stores across the country than their competitors. Not so.

    No Frills, LCL's discount banner, sells a three bag bag of 2% milk at $4.50ish in Richmond Hill. I visit Shoppers Drug Mart (non LCL Chain) and get the same bag for $4.19. How in the heck does Shoppers do this?

    In the future I may do a posting on where and how to get the best prices on staples like Milk & Eggs.

  3. Anna:

    About the issue of an RSS subscription form for updates from your new blog layout.

    Does wordpress not have this function? Your layout looks similar to a lot of Wordpress layouts (hence why I think it is). The Aurora Citizen uses a Wordpress.com layout with a domain name (i.e. www.auroracitizen.ca).

    I would suggest using a Wordpress.com address and then repoint your www.livinginaurora.ca domain name to it. That would provide a built in RSS feed that people could then subscribe too.

    I hope this helps.

    60 bags for like $5 bucks. check ur facts. I don't know where you're shopping.

  5. Hi David,

    I happen to be shopping at the Zellers (Hillcrest Mall), No Frills (South Hill Shopping Centre) and other stores in Richmond Hill. I used these stores as a basis for my research after hearing about the cost of the bags at the York Region.com story. I still think this rollout was a huge flub and could have been improved.


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