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Whats that stench - Globe and Mail

August 16, 2008
Lisan Jutras
Globe and Mail


What's that stench? It's trash juice

With all the rain filling green bins this summer, there's plenty of slime leaking from the garbage trucks. As Lisan Jutras reports, that's causing a
big stink

Toronto, like any big city, has its fair share of reeks. From sewage-treatment plants to battoirs, there are always local pockets where we deal with the disgusting byproducts of odern life. However, once a week, the bad smells come to us, rising off the pavement in funky miasma.

"I call it garbage juice," says Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto
Environmental Alliance.

"We'd call it leachate," says Geoff Rathbone, general anager of the city's solid waste anagement services.

Call it what you will. All downtown dwellers know it: t's the stuff that drips out of the arbage trucks when they are loaded up with organics. And, as one garbage man pointed ut, our wet weather is partly to blame. "It's worse this year ... with people leaving the ids open on their green bins, and the rain collects in there."

Mr. Rathbone insists that puddles of leachate are an exception on city streets. "Our ehicles are designed to not have any leakage and if we are aware of any one particular roblem, we would have that vehicle serviced." Mr. Rathbone said. If there is garbage esidue, he added, "we probably want to take a look at the individual route."

But a survey of the streets on a recent garbage day revealed a drizzle of fresh leavings very few metres, dotted with excitable flies. The sludge as visible everywhere.

When queried, the average Torontonian knows exactly what is meant by "garbage juice."

"I have no idea where it comes from and why it happens," said a woman named Dawn, who lives in the Beaches, "but it grosses me out."

"We've had some complaints, mainly in Kensington Market this week," said Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), "with trucks leaving a
fairly healthy residue on the street."

"It's disgusting," said Rosalie Ribeiro, who lives near Ossington and Harbord. "In the summer it has such a nasty smell. And then you get the flies."

Ms. Ribeiro doesn't just object to the smell, though. She fears the sludge presents a health concern. "Especially with two kids," she adds. "I don't want them playing around it."

The trucks, which collectively handle garbage from 700 to 800 houses per day, are each designed with a tank that holds 200 litres of leachate, and "we don't fill that all the time," says Mr. Rathbone. But the problem lies elsewhere.

"Where the back tailgate meets up with the body with the truck, there is a seal there, but it does in time break down," says Rob Orpin, director of collections. "Do the seals leak occasionally? Sure they do."

"I've never seen a garbage truck that didn't leak juice," the garbage man confided as he loaded up his truck.

However, Mr. Orpin isn't convinced it's something to worry about. "In terms of a health hazard, I don't get the context there," he said. "People aren't typically eating on the road or playing on the road."

As for the feces that winds up in the garbage (dog and cat poo and diapers are accepted in reen bins), "you have dog crap all over this city," Mr. Orpin insists, and plenty of opportunities to step in it elsewhere. In any case, rain, he says, washes the leachate off the asphalt before long. (This year, at least, he may be right about that.)

Street sweepers, those stentorian yellow street-cleaning vehicles, only service small residential streets once every two weeks, and are dispatched by the department of transportation, so co-ordination with garbage pickup is not possible, says Mr. Orpin.

Mr. Hartmann of the TEA also doesn't think the garbage juice from the organics bins is nything to fear.

"If you have a truck which is picking up garbage and there is
compaction taking place, and someone has thrown some toxic waste - something like batteries - in their garbage, that would be hazardous," he says.

"If the truck is picking up green waste, then I don't worry about it. Would I eat a carrot stick that fell in it? No.

"But then I wouldn't eat anything that fell on the road, period."

Clean green bins:
Tips from the 'Hammer'

In Toronto, green-bin waste can be contained in a plastic bag. But if you'd like to go the eco-friendly route and still cut down on the yuck factor, the City of Hamilton has some tips for T.O.

Stop odour where it starts!
Your green cart should be cleaned regularly using a solution of borax and water or vinegar and water. Enzymatic cleaners such as Green Bin Deodorizer are also good.

Line the bottom of your cart with paper products such as crumpled newspaper, boxboard, fibre egg cartons, take-out trays or greasy pizza boxes to absorb liquid and prevent material from sticking to the bottom of the cart.

Flies are particularly attracted by protein sources, mostly meat and bones. Try waiting until the night before collection before placing these items in the green cart.

If space permits, freeze meat/fruit/vegetable organic wase in newspaper or paper bags, then put it into the green cart the night before collection.

Source: City of Hamilton Public Works website

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