Step away from the garbage bag

How your Kingston trash savvy can save the planet one pop can at a time

By maximizing your recyclables and using a compost, you can avoid garbage-bag pileups.
By maximizing your recyclables and using a compost, you can avoid garbage-bag pileups.

In a city where most students share a house with anywhere from one to 10 people, surviving on Kingston’s limit of two garbage bags per household is a challenge. If you recycle, it doesn’t have to be.

“Maximize your use of recycling,” suggests John Giles, manager of solid waste for the City of Kingston.

“Most materials are recyclable.” Because each household is limited to two garbage bags per pickup, students living in a house with several housemates may feel the pressure to cut down the amount of waste they produce.

Giles suggests recycling as many items as possible, using a backyard composter for food scraps and avoiding purchasing items with excessive packaging.

“Choose to leave packaging behind where you can,” he said. “For example, if you buy a pair of shoes, leave the box in the store.”

Recycling is an easy way out of spending the fee for extra bags. Kingston uses a two-tier recycling system: blue and grey boxes are collected on alternating weeks.

The grey box is used for recycling paper products and plastic bags. Blue boxes get all other recyclables, including metal cans, rigid plastic containers and glass bottles and jars.

To determine what type of plastic an item is, look for the number encoded on the bottom of the product. In the blue box, numbers two, four, five, six, and certain types of number-one plastics are recyclable. Number three and seven plastics, or any item containing a combination of the two, should be placed with regular garbage.

As of Oct. 1, the city won’t accept number-one plastics without screw tops in the blue box because they contain an extra additive that makes them undesirable for recycling into new materials. When items are recycled, they’re sold to manufacturers who reuse the materials. Because of this additive, number-one plastics such as “clamshell” containers used for foods like eggs and muffins can’t be resold.

Beginning in either spring or fall 2008, the city will introduce a separate organic waste program. Residents will have a bin to place organic waste that will be collected weekly like regular garbage.

“You’ll still have recycling, but garbage will be split,” Giles said. “Some will be going to landfill, and the organics portion of the garbage, which will go to a composting facility.”

The city is soliciting proposals for a facility where they can dispose the compost. The company that takes the organic waste could use it for fertilizer or combine it with topsoil. Giles said the composting will cut down the amount of harmful methane gas released into the air by regular landfills.

“With the composting site, all of your materials go in one end and out the other, and you haven’t filled it up like you do a landfill. You continually reuse that facility; you’re not filling it.”

Kingstonians can choose to compost excess food scraps at home, a system Giles said is the most cost-effective and eco-friendly. You can buy your own composter at the Kingston Area Recycling Centre on Lappan’s Lane or at a hardware store.

When used properly, a backyard composter can fortify garden soil and cut down on waste going into a household’s garbage bags.

“It’s simple,” said Amy Paauw, a communications officer for the city of Kingston. “You take food scraps from your kitchen, dump it in the composter, keep it moist, and turn it regularly.”

To be most effective, composters must be placed in a sunny location, and contain the right amount of nitrogen (kitchen scraps, grass clippings), carbon (leaves, wood chips, peat moss), water and air. Meat, bones and fats such as cheese and salad dressing shouldn’t go in a home-based composter.

Composting requires diligence, but Giles said the payoff is well worth it.

“It’s the most cost effective way of dealing with waste, and it’s dealt with in your own backyard,” he said. “You’re saving money, and [the soil] gives you a valuable product.”

If excess garbage is unavoidable, residents can purchase a tag for $2 to attach to any extra garbage bags they want picked up. Bag tags are available in the AMS office in the Lower Ceilidh of the JDUC.

“No more than two bags will be picked up,” Giles said. “If they do generate that extra garbage, the reality is that you may have to buy a bag tag.”

If you’re looking to throw out an old fridge, couch, or other large articles after moving day, it isn’t as easy as putting them by the curb.

For a fee, residents can take large articles and excess garbage to the Kingston East Landfill. Disposal fees are $110 per tonne, per month, with a minimum fee of $15 per month. The landfill is located on Concession Road 4, and is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 8:30 a.m to 4 p.m.

For more information on garbage disposal and recycling in Kingston, visit

Bills: a how-to guide

Whether you live in a house or apartment, the bills start piling up fast after move-in day. Here’s a breakdown of the main bills you will have to deal with.

Gas, electric, water and sewer services are all provided by Utilities Kingston. Depending on your arrangement with your landlord, you may need to open a new account for your house. Either fill out a form at or visit the Utilities Kingston building on John Counter Boulevard. You’ll also need to pick a date for them to come by, read your meter and activate your account. Planning ahead helps, since they’re usually booked solid in September with the influx of students coming back to town.

In Kingston, the main option for cable television is Cogeco. Bell and StarChoice offer satellite television services. You can find out more about their range of services and payment options on their respective websites (,, and You can also have a second TV connected, but this will cost you more per month. As with utilities, you will need to pick a date for them to come by and install your service.

Rogers, Bell, and Cogeco all offer various options for Internet access. Each company provides several internet services, ranging from cheap no-thrills access to deluxe access packages with faster downloading speeds and higher bandwidth caps. These services can be bought on their own or bundled together with cable or phone services. You usually have the option of either renting a modem from them (for a monthly fee) or buying a modem for a one-time fee. Find out more at their websites ( for Rogers, see above for the others).

There are several options you can look into for phone services. First, there are the traditional landlines offered by Bell. These tend to be reasonably cheap and effective for local calling, but long-distance charges can add up. Rogers, Bell, and Cogeco also offer digital phone services. These have more features such as voice mail and call display, and many of their services include free long-distance calling to Canada and the U.S. The catch is the monthly fees tend to be higher. There are also lesser-known voice over internet protocol (VOIP) options from companies such as Sprint and Packet 8. These phones use your internet connection instead of a traditional landline. These may be a good option for people who plan on making many long-distance calls.

Andrew Bucholtz

Don’t be trashy

There’s no need to throw out used clothing, furniture, or other miscellaneous household objects. Several alternative services exist in Kingston to fix, sell or reuse perfectly good items. Remember: one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

• Kingston Freecycle -

Part of a global group, Freecycle is a grassroots movement encouraging people to give away items they no longer want free of charge to other members in their local community. Through their online forum, members can both post items they wish to give away and post requests for goods they’re looking for.

• Kingston Free4all –

Another online community aimed at keeping reusable items out of the landfill, Free4all also accepts items such as broken glass or cardboard boxes to be reused as craft supplies. Like Freecycle, no money is exchanged, and the reuse ethic is promoted through giving and receiving useful items.

• Yellow Bike Action – 613-545-0404 or

Getting rid of an old bicycle and helping those in need has never been so easy. Yellow Bike Action repairs old bicycles and sells them at affordable prices in the Kingston community, including a bicycle exchange for growing children and free bicycles for children in need.

Give a little time

If you’re looking to give back to the place you’ve chosen to call home for four years, several Kingston organizations are looking for students willing to donate their time to a worthy cause. Here’s a list of places representing only the tip of the volunteering iceberg.

  • Big Brother/Big Sister Association of Kingston—pairs volunteers up with a child they mentor and spend time with; or (613) 544-1621
  • Canadian Diabetes Association, Kingston—looking for bingo assistants for charity bingo games;
  • CIBC Run for the Cure—monitor or help set up and clean up for this annual run raising money for Cancer; 613-634-6618 or apply online at
  • Hotel Dieu Hospital—work in auxiliary services or with patients; 613-544-3310 or 166 Brock St.
  • Interval House—provides support for abused women and their children; 613-546-1833 x23 or
  • Kingston General Hospital—work in auxiliary services or with patients; 613-548-2359, or 76 Stuart St.
  • Kingston Symphony Orchestra—usher, sell performance tickets or tend their information booths during performance season; 613-546-9729
  • Volunteer and Information Kingston—provides referrals and volunteer position postings; 613-542-8512, or 120 Clarence St., Suite 273
Gloria Er-Chua

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