Green bin and leaf and yard waste

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What goes in your green bin

All food waste or scraps of any kind belong in your green bin. 

This includes meat and fish, bones, egg shells, mouldy food etc. Not sure about where a material goes? Search the Waste Explorer.

Other acceptable items:

  • Animal bedding (e.g. bird and hamster cages)
  • Barbeque ashes
  • Butcher’s meat wrap
  • Cold fireplace ash
  • Cotton balls
  • Dog feces (must be contained in a sealed, leak-proof bag)
  • Dryer lint
  • Floor sweepings, vacuum bags and vacuum contents
  • Food-soiled pizza boxes only (clean pizza boxes should go in the black bin)
  • Household plants, including soil
  • Kitty litter (soiled)
  • Microwave popcorn bags
  • Paper coffee cups, plates and muffin wrappers
  • Pet fur, hair and feathers
  • Soiled paper, boxboard and cardboard
  • Soiled paper towels, napkins and tissues 
  • Sugar, flour and potato paper bags
  • Waxed paper
  • Wooden popsicle sticks and toothpicks

Note: During COVID-19, tissues and paper towels must be placed in a plastic bag to protect waste collection staff from the virus.

Yard waste

  • Branches, twigs and hedge trimmings
  • Leaves
  • Plants and weeds
  • Grass clippings

NOTE: Yard waste cannot be placed in any type of plastic bag including biodegradable or compostable bags.

Reuse Option

Leave your leaves! You can use them as a natural mulch. Rather than bagging leaves for curbside pick-up, put them in your gardens. This takes pressure off our waste collection crews throughout the pandemic. Plus, your flowerbeds will thank you in the spring.

Not allowed in the green bin

  • Diapers and sanitary products

Green Bin Program – Curbside residential

Using the green bin takes advantage of weekly pickup, while garbage is collected bi-weekly.

Green Bin disposal options

Plastic bags can be used as a bagging option for household organics in the green bin. Pet waste is also accepted – including dog waste and kitty litter. Please note that dog feces must be contained in a sealed, leak-proof bag.

No need to purchase plastic or compostable bags. You can reuse common ones around your home:

  • bread bags
  • milk bags
  • grocery and retail bags

The plastic bag option is just one of many that are tailored to our residents’ comfort level and interest. The other options include:

  • Paper bags
  • Newspaper linings in the kitchen counter container

How are organics in the plastic bags processed?

The organic waste facility has been retrofitted to rip open the plastic bags and separate the organic waste for composting. The plastic bags are then sent to landfill. The paper and compostable bags will begin to break down, along with the food and organic waste, while the material decomposes in the composting tunnels. Any paper and compostable bags that do not break down are screened from the compost. Smaller screened pieces may be recirculated through the process, bigger screened pieces are sent to landfill.

Can compostable or biodegradable bags be used to bag organic waste?

Plastic bags of any kind can be used to bag organic waste in the green bin.  However, there is no need to purchase bags for this purpose. You can reuse common ones around your home. Compostable or biodegradable bags have no added benefit because they don’t break down fast enough during processing. Like all other plastic bags, they are separated from the organic waste and sent to the landfill. 

Using the Green Bin: It’s in your best interest – environmentally and economically

Using the green bin, along with other recycling efforts, is one of the easiest things people can do to help our environment. Diverting organic waste from landfill lowers the amount methane – which contributes to greenhouse gases. In addition, diverting organic waste extends the life of the landfill – which saves millions of City dollars.

Green Bin Program – Apartment and multi-units

On April 27, 2022, Ottawa City Council approved a mandatory organics diversion program for all multi-residential properties. City staff are working with property owners, managers, and superintendents on a plan to bring green bins to all multi-residential properties. An update on this, including timelines for implementation, will be made available in early 2023.

Looking to participate in the Green Bin program now? Contact your property manager for more information or to get started.

Green Bin disposal options

Plastic bags can be used as a bagging option for household organics in the green bin. Pet waste is also accepted – including dog waste and kitty litter. No need to purchase plastic or compostable bags. You can reuse common ones around your home:

  • bread bags
  • milk bags
  • grocery and retail bags

The plastic bag option is just one of many that are tailored to our residents’ comfort level and interest. The other options include:

  • Paper bags
  • Newspaper linings in the kitchen counter container

How are organics in the plastic bags processed?

The organic waste facility has been retrofitted to rip open the plastic bags and separate the organic waste for composting. The plastic bags are then sent to landfill. The paper and compostable bags will begin to break down, along with the food and organic waste, while the material decomposes in the composting tunnels. Any paper and compostable bags that do not break down are screened from the compost. Smaller screened pieces may be recirculated through the process, bigger screened pieces are sent to landfill.

Can compostable or biodegradable bags be used to bag organic waste?

Plastic bags of any kind can be used to bag organic waste in the green bin.  However, there is no need to purchase bags for this purpose. You can reuse common ones around your home. Compostable or biodegradable bags have no added benefit because they don’t break down fast enough during processing. Like all other plastic bags, they are separated from the organic waste and sent to the landfill. 

Using the Green Bin: It’s in your best interest – environmentally and economically

Using the green bin, along with other recycling efforts, is one of the easiest things people can do to help our environment. Diverting organic waste from landfill lowers the amount methane – which contributes to greenhouse gases. In addition, diverting organic waste extends the life of the landfill – which saves millions of City dollars.

How does the Green Bin program work?

Organics recycling is an important part of the City of Ottawa’s long term waste strategy. Diverting residential organic waste away from landfill saves the City millions of dollars by reducing the need for a new landfill site.

Roughly 45 per cent of Ottawa’s garbage (by weight) is compostable organic material that can be put into the green bin. Just as Ottawa residents separate recyclable materials from their garbage, the Green Bin program makes it easy to separate organics for curb-side pickup.

Use the small, specially-designed kitchen container to collect organic materials. Simply empty the organic contents of the kitchen container into the large green bin for curb-side pickup.

The organic material is brought to an indoor composting facility owned by Convertus located in an industrial park off of Hawthorne Road where it will be turned into compost and other beneficial reuse materials.  The compost is used on farmer's fields in Eastern Ontario.

Convertus is responsible for the marketing and sale of the finished compost and beneficial reuse materials. The City is entitled to receive 2,000 tonnes of the finished compost per calendar year.

Note that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) requires that odours not be detectable at the property boundary of the Convertus facility. Any odour complaints should be directed to the MOECC.

When is the green bin collected?

Your green bin is collected each and every week, 52 weeks a year.

Residents are reminded to put their green bin and recycling out with their garbage by 7 am for collection on their assigned pick-up day. Lock the lid to prevent animals and pests from getting into the bin. Leaf and yard waste can be used to top up the green bin. It can also be placed in a separate container such as an unused garbage can with the lid off to ensure that collection workers see the leaf and yard waste.

Green bin tips

Keep it clean

  1. Line your green bin with flyers, newspaper or yard waste paper bags to help keep it clean.
  2. Reuse a plastic bag such as: bread bags, milk bags, grocery and retail bags etc., for bagging organic waste 
  3. Rinse your green bin with a garden hose from time to time, especially if you don’t line your bin with paper.
  4. Rinse your green bin with lemon juice, vinegar or baking soda to reduce odours and keep bugs out. 
  5. Spray your green bin with cooking oil in the winter to minimize risk of items freezing to the bin and ensure easy removal of waste.
  6. Keeping your meat or fish scraps in the freezer until collection day helps reduce odours.

Keep animals and bugs away

  1. Keep your green bin away from fences and deck railings so that animals can't get into it.
  2. If you do place your bin near a fence or deck railing, secure it with a bungee cord so it doesn’t get knocked over.
  3. Sprinkling a strong smelling biodegradable repellent such as vinegar or detergent on your green bin helps keep pests away.
  4. Remember to lock the lid to keep animals out of your green bin.
  5. Capture fruit flies with a bowl of vinegar covered with plastic wrap with several small holes in it. Empty as required.
  6. Put salt or vinegar on maggots to kill them. If maggots appear in the green bin, a fly has laid eggs on some exposed food waste.
  7. Peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, chili pepper or hot sauce can act as anti-gnawing repellents and help deter animals from taking an interest in your green bin.

Make collecting easier

  1. Switch your kitchen bin for your garbage pail and keep your garbage pail somewhere else.
  2. Keep indoor collection containers in your washrooms. Bathroom tissue, facial tissue and paper towels can be placed in the green bin.
  3. Invite the green bin to your next BBQ. It’s a great party guest for food scraps, paper napkins and paper plates.

Alternatives to buying a bin liner

  • Use newspaper or any other paper-based product to line the bottom of your container(s).
  • Reuse plastic bags such as; bread bags, milk bags, grocery and retail bags etc., for bagging your organic waste and dog feces.
  • Make a homemade bin liner [PDF - 13 KB] from old newspaper. Get the kids involved and have fun with it. 
  • Paper coffee cups and waxed paper coffee cups go in your green bin, not in your black bin or blue bin. They can be used to hold cooking grease or kitchen sink guck before you put these things in your green bin.
  • Use empty cardboard cereal, cracker and cookie boxes to collect food scraps in your kitchen. Most of them fit perfectly in your kitchen bin

What not to do

  • Leaf and yard waste cannot be placed in any type of plastic bag including biodegradable or compostable bags. Leaf and yard waste is processed both at Convertus (composting facility) and Trail Road Waste Facility. Both sites use different processes, and Trail Road processing cannot separate plastic bags. If leaf and yard waste is placed at the curb in a plastic garbage bag, it will not get collected. Please continue using paper yard waste bags, or an approved empty container, to dispose of your leaf and yard waste.
  • Clothing and textiles do not belong in your green bin. If you cannot donate these items, it can be disposed of through your regular curbside garbage.

Need paper liners for the green bin or kitchen container?

While it’s not necessary to use paper liners for your green bin, they are available at most major retailers. You can also use leaf and yard waste paper bags in the larger green bin.

Paper liners are available for sale at:

  • Canadian Tire
  • Giant Tiger
  • Home Depot
  • Home Hardware
  • Loblaws
  • Metro
  • Rona
  • Sobeys
  • Costco
  • Walmart

Leaf and yard waste

Things to remember

  • Only use compostable paper yard waste bags, a garbage can or cardboard boxes when setting out leaf and yard waste for collection
  • Ensure containers and bundles are no more than 15 kg (33 lb.) in weight
  • Extra leaf and yard waste goes in the green bin
  • Branches are to be tied in bundles of less than 1.2 m (4 ft.) in length and 60 cm (2 ft.) in width
  • Individual branches should be less than 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter
  • Fruit and pumpkins can be included
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn.
  • Leaf and yard waste will not be collected as regular garbage
  • All leaf and yard waste must be bundled using biodegradable material. Twine or string is the best option. Wire, duct tape and plastic twine will not biodegrade.

These items are not collected

  • Plastic bags are NOT allowed for bagging leaf and yard waste
  • Any material or tree cuttings over 10 cm (4 in.) in diameter
  • No earth, rocks or sod
  • No logs or stumps
  • Leaf and yard waste should not be mixed with any other type of waste

Leaf and yard waste may not be disposed of on the street, sidewalk, boulevard or in parks in accordance with the City's Parks and Facilities By-law No. 2004-276. Anyone charged with this offence may be subject to a fine.

Avoid pick-up problems

  • Clearly identify that the garbage can or cardboard box is for yard waste
  • Leave the lid off your cans and cardboard boxes on dry days
  • Separate the yard waste cans from recycling and garbage by placing them on the opposite side of the driveway when possible

Reusing your grass clippings

Grass is rich in nutrients and can be used to keep your lawn healthy and fertile. Yard waste and grass clippings make up to 29 per cent of residential garbage during spring and summer. Use your grass clippings to feed your lawn and garden.

Leave clippings on your lawn

Grass clippings that are 6 mm to 13 mm (1/4" to 1/2") in length can be left on the lawn. Longer clippings should be placed in your garden or composter. Grass should always be cut before it goes to seed.

Put them in your garden

Leave your leaves! You can use them as a natural mulch. Rather than bagging leaves for curbside pick-up, put them in your gardens. This takes pressure off our waste collection crews and helps us keep serving you during the second wave of COVID-19. Plus, your flowerbeds will thank you in the Spring.

Clippings are a soil enriching mulch for your garden. Scatter them in thin layers around flowers, vegetables, bushes and trees.

Put them in your composter

Clippings placed in a composter should be mixed with other compostable waste such as leaves, garden refuse and kitchen scraps. Your grass clippings will quickly decompose into rich compost.

NOTE: If you used herbicides, leave your grass clippings on the lawn. After the fourth cutting, resume placing grass clippings in your garden, bushes or in your composter.

Christmas trees

Christmas trees can be put out with your green bin. Please remove all decorations and place it at the curb no later than 7 a.m. on your scheduled collection day. Trees will not be collected if they have decorations, wrapped in plastic bags or if frozen in snowbanks.

The majority of Christmas trees are taken to the City’s contracted organics processing facility where they are processed with other organic materials collected in the green bin. When curbside collection operations permit, a single stream collection of trees is done and they are brought to the Trail Road Waste Facility. Trees are then stockpiled, mulched and used on the tipping face to cover garbage, a regulatory requirement for the City. This gives the Christmas trees a purposeful second life.

Reuse Options

The National Capital Commission contacts us annually to collect some trees for use along the Rideau Canal Skateway. Residents can contact the National Capital Commission directly to inquire about having their tree used along the Canal.

The Vanderlaand Barnyard Zoo will also accept your Christmas tree for their animals to enjoy.

Another wonderful option is to leave the evergreen in your backyard. This will provide shelter to wildlife and improve your soil as it decomposes. When the majority of needles have fallen off by spring, you can cut the branches and put them in your garden and the trunk can go in soil. They will continue to provide shelter and add nutrients to the area as they decompose throughout the fall.

Green Bins in Schools program

The Green Bins in Schools program is an extension of the City’s residential green bin program, and provides an excellent opportunity to educate children on how to use the green bin and to promote the benefits of waste diversion.

The program is provided free of charge by the City of Ottawa and offers an excellent hands-on opportunity for students to learn how to divert organic material such as food waste and soiled paper products from landfill. The City provides curbside green bins, classroom-sized containers, program signage, and weekly collection services. 

The Green Bins in Schools program continues to grow every year with more than 230 (and counting!) Ottawa public and private schools now registered.

Benefits of Joining the Program

  • The program is open to all elementary and secondary schools, including private schools. There is no cost to your school or school board for participating.
  • Students are able to learn first-hand about what materials are accepted in the green bin and take this knowledge home to their families.
  • Having a food waste diversion program in place at your school earns an additional three points towards your EcoSchools application.
  • Participating in the Green Bins in Schools program helps students learn about and take action on an important local environmental initiative that contributes to the overall health of our environment.

What goes in the green bin?

Food waste and soiled paper products (e.g. pizza boxes, paper plates, muffin wrappers, paper towels from washrooms) can all go in the green bin. Paper towels with solvents and oil based paints on them cannot go into the green bin. Vegetable or water based ink/paints are acceptable. 

Note: During COVID-19, paper towels must be placed in a plastic bag to protect waste collection staff from the virus.

Bagged leaf and yard waste will not be collected through the Green Bins in Schools program.

Where does green bin material go?

Organic waste from the Green Bin in Schools program is converted into compost that is sold to the farming community for use as a soil enhancer for agricultural crops.

Getting Started

  • Ensure your school’s principal is supportive of the program, then complete and submit the online application form. If your browser does not allow you to complete the form, please contact Solid Waste Services to request a copy of the application form.
  • A City waste inspector will contact your school to schedule a site visit to review program details and determine the safest and most convenient location for the bins on collection day.
  • It is recommended that the head caretaker and staff involved in managing the program attend the site meeting as important information will be provided about the program.
  • Following the site visit, the City will arrange for the delivery of the required number of containers and educational material.
  • Once the school has received the containers, the program can begin.

What happens at the site meeting with the Waste Inspector?

During the site visit, the Waste Inspector will explain the program in detail and answer any questions you may have. The collection day set out location for the curbside green bins will be discussed at this meeting and a final location that is away from student drop-off/pick-up zones will be approved.

The Waste Inspector will also explain collection day by-law requirements, along with helping you determine the number and size of containers your school will need. It is recommended that your school’s head caretaker and interested teacher(s) participate in the site visit.

Collection Day

Bins must be set out by 7:00 a.m. on collection day, and no earlier than 6:00 p.m. the night before collection day. Emptied green bins must be returned to school property by 10:00 pm on collection day.

Missed Collections

Green bin collection is between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Please note that collection delays could occur during bad weather and/or during peak leaf and yard waste season (early spring and fall).

If your green bins have not been collected, please call 3-1-1 or submit an online request via Service Ottawa.

Helpful Program Tips

  • Place bins in cafeterias, food preparation areas, classrooms, washrooms and the teachers’ lounge.
  • Minimize odours and avoid fruit flies by emptying indoor bins daily.
  • Wrap food waste and/or use paper liners to keep the bins clean. 
  • Hold a program launch event to raise awareness about the program and motivate students and staff to participate.
  • Keep composting messaging top of mind by providing regular program updates, tips and information.
  • Integrate waste diversion into the school curriculum!
  • Involve students from the Eco Club as green bin ambassadors.

Program Signage and Education Material

The City provides program signage for the green bins and brochures/leaflets that provide a list of items accepted in the green bin. A collection calendar that notes the green bin collection day is also provided.

Additional or Replacement Bins

If your school needs additional bins, needs to replace damaged bins, or if you would like to arrange a pickup of bins that are no longer needed, please contact Solid Waste Services or call 3-1-1.

Helpful Program Resources

School Board Contacts

Your school board environmental contact can provide you with promotional materials and additional suggestions to help improve your program.

  • Conseil des écoles catholiques du centre-est: Claude Robineau, Surveillant d'entretien 
    robinc@ecolecatholique.ca; 613-744-2555 poste 3747
  • Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de L’Ontario : Pierre Michaud Whalen, Responsable du programme ISO 14000 pour les élèves
    pierre.michaud-whalen@cepeo.on.ca 613-742-8960 poste 2138
  • Ottawa Carleton District School Board: Tom Thistle, Environmental Management Coordinator
    tom.thistle@ocdsb.ca; 613-596-8211 ext. 3440 
  • Ottawa Catholic School Board: Gerry Sancartier, Property and Operations Officer
    gerry.sancartier@ocsb.ca; 613-224-4455 ext. 2300

For More Information

General Inquiries: 3-1-1 (613-580-2400)
Toll-Free: 1-866-261-9799
TTY: 613-580-2401