We quizzed Metro Vancouverites on their composting knowledge

Jan 6 2020, 9:33 am

Has your singular office trash can been replaced in recent years by a selection of confusing coloured bins? When you go to separate your soy sauce packet, chopsticks, napkin, and container after lunch, do you enter into a slightly overwhelmed panic?

The chopsticks are compostable, right? Napkins count as food scraps… right?

First, give yourself a pat on the back for caring about which things go in which bin. Composting is hard. Okay, it’s not rocket science. But it’s not that easy to figure out either — we even did a quiz to prove it.

On Daily Hive’s Instagram story, we polled Metro Vancouverites on which bin they thought garbage should go into — specifically, take out containers. It was quite the nail biter, really. There were 7% of people that said you should throw it out as “garbage;” 13% said the Blue Bin; one in four said the Green Bin; and just over half of respondents said “it depends.”

With the results as assorted as the bins themselves, it shows there’s a lot to consider when it comes to sorting through our waste.

Considering Canadians spent $1 billion on takeout last year, we should really know how to recycle the containers by now. So we teamed up with Metro Vancouver to dispel all the rumours you have around food scraps recycling — so you can take on 2020 with all the confidence you need to compost!

So, what DOES go in the Green Bin?

Sushi container/Shutterstock

First, if it’s food, it goes in the Green Bin. That means food: fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy, a leftover Dynamite Roll you never ate. And yes, that includes eggshells. Just be careful about pouring leftover oil in there — only small amounts are okay.

Second, food-soiled paper also goes in the Green Bin. Think napkins, coffee filters with grounds, wooden chopsticks, skewers, and popsicle sticks.

And what DOESN’T go in the Green Bin?

So, now that we know where to put our banana peels and coffee grounds, what about everything else?

Well, a good rule of thumb is that organic waste goes in the Green Bin, and inorganic materials like plastic, glass, and metal, do not. Sorry everyone — that includes “biodegradable” and “compostable” plastic bags. These bags may not break down properly during processing and can contaminate your compost. It might even prevent all the organics you worked hard separating from being recycled.

Curious about what else shouldn’t go in the green bin? Some other random selections include corks, coffee cups and lips, dental floss, elastic bands, bread tags, and butter wrappers. And no, you can’t put your swizzle stick in there.

Anything else we should know?

Many types of containers and packaging are made of more than one material, and these are the items that can be the most confusing. To help you figure out what goes where, Metro Vancouver came up with three key tests for us all to remember when you’re separating your lunch.

The first one is the grease test: if grease goes through it, it should go in the Green Bin. This means things like paper takeout containers, paper plates, and fast food paper. If the grease doesn’t go through, it doesn’t belong.

The second test is the teabag test. If a teabag tears when it’s wet, it’s made of paper and should go in the Green Bin. If it can’t easily tear, it means it’s probably got plastic in it, so put it in the garbage.

And last but not least, we have the lined paper bag test. If your paper bag has cellulose on the inside, it gets the green light for the Green Bin. If it’s lined with plastic (even plastic labelled “compostable” or “biodegradable”), put it in the garbage.

If you’re unsure if something goes in the green bin, play it safe and put it in the garbage.


Moral of the story? ​Put organic waste in the Green Bin, and keep anything inorganic (like glass, metal, and plastic) out.

Still confused? We hear you! But since every municipality has different rules, it’s best to check out your specific one to see exactly what should go in your green bin.

Ready to sort those sushi containers for good? To learn more about how to hit your 2020 green waste goals, visit Metro Vancouver’s website.