Blue bag, yellow bag, blue box … green bin? Vancouverites are familiar with the ubiquitous blue recycling box. However, in many Canadian municipalities, blue boxes are happily married to compost-filled green bins. But despite having a reputation as a green city, Vancouver doesn’t have a curbside organics collection program. Why not?

Vancouver is running out of places to dump its waste. A curbside composting program is a great way to reduce the waste stream — as much as 30 to 40 per cent of household waste is compostable. And when people have the option of getting their organic waste collected, they are more likely to compost.

However, large-scale composting programs face a number of challenges. First, compost will eventually smell, so composting facilities must be located near collection locations to minimize transportation and processing time. And as with many recycling programs, contamination (with non-compostables) is an issue.

Will Vancouverites ever see a green bin gracing their doorstep? According to Mayor Gregor Robertson’s new plan to make Vancouver a more sustainable city, a citywide curbside composting program is in the works. So there’s hope that soon there will be green bins to keep our hard-working blue boxes company.

But composting programs are only as good as their citizen participation, so the success of these potential blue-green marriages is in your hands.

Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC. Amy Thai is an MSc graduate from UBC’s Department of Geography.

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