Reducing Waste in a High Rise

We are currently living in a small unit in a high rise building. We are very fortunate that both our municipality and building provide recycling and organics waste disposal. The organics are sent to a digestion process where the methane gas is captured and used, and the residual solids are made available as compost. Our garbage chutes have three options: garbage, recycling, organics. There is also a garbage room in the parking garage with larger bins for all three waste types.

When we first moved in we weren’t taking full advantage of the system. We would fill plastic bags with recycling and throw them down the chute. We would only collect the organics if we were cooking a large meal, and even then we would use plastic produce bags to collect the waste.

Our solutions

Reusable bags for recycling

We realized that it didn’t make any sense to be using plastic bags to collect recycling. We decided to make the extra effort to take all our recycling down to the garbage room in a reusable bag and just empty them into the large container.

It is very minimal effort as we only take it out when we are leaving the house anyways. If we are leaving on foot, it is one additional flight of stairs to walk up to get to the group floor. If we are biking, we’d have to be down on P1 anyways.

Our cheerful polar bears collecting our recycling.

We could use this reusable bag to line a container to keep out of site, but we find keeping it hanging near the entry door makes it easier to remember to take it out with us – keeping accumulation under control.

As an added bonus, there is additional incentive to make sure all the recycling is clean and free of residual foods.

Compost bin in the fridge

When we stopped using plastic produce bags (in pre-pandemic days) we realized we wouldn’t have the same easy method of getting produce waste to the chute. We decided to pick up a small container to collect our produce in between trips, and that we would line it with compostable bags. We keep it in the fridge to keep odours to zero and to be able to use the whole bag up at once before we have to bring it to the chute.

bin & bootch

What we didn’t realize at the time is that the reason they could accept compost in plastic bags is because all bags are removed in the process. So, our biodegradable bags are ending up in the landfill. Worse still, we learned that even if they were composted by our municipality, it turns out that biodegradable bags aren’t really the magic bullet we’re looking for.

We’ve got a huge box of compostable bags that are probably going to last us a year or more, but when those are nearing an end, we will likely experiment with paper. The ultimate goal is to go bag-less and have our own garden compost, but that will have to wait. I don’t think we’re good candidates for apartment vermiculture.

Where we can improve

We still have two garbage cans in the apartment, one in the kitchen and one in the bathroom. As we are trying to reduce the amount of packaging we purchase when buying necessities, we don’t have to empty these very often, but we could be doing better.

Both are currently lined with plastic bags. It would likely be more eco-friendly to not use liners at all, or even use a reusable bag like with the recycling, but I am still a little squeamish about doing that.

We also have a Litter Locker for the kitties. This makes having a cat box in the small space so much easier to manage and was provided by the humane society when we adopted the Little One. We hope that when we have a bit more space and the ability to compost we can pass this item on to someone else and move to a different litter system.

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