More and more line our streets, and they’re here to stay! Brown bins (and bags) have crept into our daily lives, quietly prompting us to change our habits. But do you really know what they’re for, or how their contents are used? Here are some answers to help you understand what they are all about.
What does a brown bin eat in winter?
Do you know how to feed your brown bin or bag? If you’re not sure, here’s a handy little guide on what goes in.
Fruit and vegetable peels and stalks, meat and poultry bones, egg shells, nut shells and fruit pits, table scraps, coffee filters and tea bags.
Soiled paper and cardboard (If they aren’t dirty, they go in the recycling!)
Soiled pizza and pastry boxes, paper plates and cups, tissue paper and napkins.
Yard waste (except branches)
Dead leaves, flowers, plants, grass clippings, sawdust, bark, wood chips, garden waste.
From the brown bin to renewable natural gas
Once the organic material is collected, it is sent to a biomethanization plant. Biomethanation is a process for transforming organic matter that involves placing organic matter in biodigesters, which are enormous vats that digest organic matter like a giant stomach. The decomposition of materials naturally produces methane which we harvest to turn it into renewable natural gas. Renewable natural gas is a 100% renewable, carbon-neutral energy source which can be injected into the gas network. The energy is ready to be consumed, in the same way as conventional natural gas: to heat buildings, fuel vehicles or boil water. At the end of the biomethanation process, a residue called digestate is left, and this can be used as fertilizer. To learn more, read this article and test your knowledge with this quiz.
A role model
Saint-Hyacinthe is currently the only municipality whose RNG is injected into Énergir’s gas network, thanks to its organic material recovery centre and biomethanation plant. However, Québec City, the Société d’économie mixte d’énergie renouvelable de la région de Rivière-du-Loup (SÉMER), Coop Agri-Énergie Warwick and the Régie de gestion des matières résiduelles de la Mauricie will follow suit shortly. This not only significantly reduces GHG emissions, it also generates profits that can help improve services for citizens and reduce their property taxes. The municipality of Saint-Hyacinthe, for example, has signed a deal for Énergir to buy its surplus RNG, which is expected to generate more than $3.6 million in profits annually, including a half-million in savings on fuel for vehicles and on heating costs for municipal buildings. It’s amazing how much your brown bin can do for you!
Did you know? According to Recyc-Québec, 47% of the residual materials generated by Quebecers (over 400 lb per year) are organic materials that can be composted or reused.