Down in the dumps, but not in an Ottawa way

There must be many models of how to pick up and handle trash and other waste.

Ottawa, like most Ontario municipalities, opts for separate streams right at the input stage. Residents and businesses are obliged to separate the cardboard from the newspaper from the tin and glass, and the organics go here not there. The percentage of waste recycled or diverted from landfill is proportionate to everyone’s effort. Some might call it participation; others might call it rubbing the public’s face in the garbage.

There is one eastern Ontario city that opted for the single stream. All garbage is collected together, and then sorted. My recollection was their diversion rate was way higher than Ottawa’s, but was ever so Politically Incorrect.

While visiting a small US town I had occasion to go to the dump, since the municipality did not pick up garbage from the home. It was a really interesting experience (does that tell you how limited my life is?).

First, one has to drive there; but in Chatham MA that’s the only means of transport. The “transfer station” (as in “transfer your trash from your hands to theirs”) has a staffed gate where you pay as you go. Here is the rate card:

The trash trash goes into these big open windows of a steel building. The noise of the birds inside was deafening. The tractor was noisy too. There was the faint whiff of … smell  (faint, as in  when you smelled it you felt faint):


A front end loader with a “big foot” attachment pushed the bags to one end, into a slot, and tamped them down. The slot came out at a lower level, where dumpsters could remove the compacted trash to the adjacent landfill:

A bit further over was an enclosure with bins separated by concrete walls, to put your old fridge, stove, microwave. My dishwasher cutlery basket always disintegrates before the DW breaks; I was sorely tempted to go find another cutlery basket out there:

And over here is the corral for bottles and cans:A A bit further over were dozens of bins for bottles. The customer could dump all bottles in one spot or sort them into different bins. There was a special bin for bottles that had “deposits” which the Boy Scouts picked up and sold. A new meaning for those bottle drives we enjoyed as kids.

There were other specialty bins too. One for oils:

One was a weatherproof depository for books; and separate bins for clothes:

And for some pretty exotic stuff too, like mercury:

My pictures of the “organics” section somehow got lost. They had bins for grass clippings, twigs, branches, thick branches, and stumps.

At the far end of the “transfer facility” was … wait for it … a gift shop:

 Yup, some nice stuff was set aside by volunteers and given away at the gift shop. There were bikes, dump trucks, plates, Christmas ornaments … lots of useful stuff:

And over it all  flew the flag, a transfer station to be proud of:  



2 thoughts on “Down in the dumps, but not in an Ottawa way

  1. Neat idea, if a little car-oriented…
    I would like to see garbage day delayed one day after recycling and compost are picked up. There is often confusion between the garbage guys and the recycling guys that results in some garbage being left behind. If the garbage truck came a day later, there would’ve no confusion. Recycling takes what it takes, and garbage takes whatever is left the next day. I think our streets would end up cleaner.

  2. On garbage day I become a city employee what with all the sorting,washing and carrying. Maybe I should bill the city for my time.. Let’s hope they have no more sorting plans. On windy paper recycling days it seems there’s more paper in the air than in the blue boxes.

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