Universal Cart Program

Why the Universal Cart Program?

  • The majority of household waste is made up of recyclables and organics. Recycling and composting is important to reduce the impact on our environment and to extend the life of our landfill.
  • Green & blue carts have proven to be effective in diverting waste from the landfill. On a Town-wide basis, that would translate into thousands of tonnes of annual waste being turned into useful recycled materials & rich compost for farms instead of taking up valuable space in the landfill.
  • There are many advantages for the environment that is why many municipalities in Alberta have or are implementing a universal green and blue cart program, including the City of Calgary in April 2017. 
By using your new blue and green carts, you can:
  • Reduce dependence on and extend the life of our landfill.
  • Reduce greenhouse gases, helping our environment now and for future generations.
  • Turn food and yard waste into useful compost.
What days do we put out our new carts for collection?
  • The blue cart for recycling is picked up weekly on the same day as your black cart collection.
  • The green cart for organics is picked up on the same day as your black cart collection. Carts are collected weekly from May to October and bi-weekly November to April.
Where do I store my carts?
  • For several years, you have had a mix of front and back lane collection, and have managed with up to three carts and found storage solutions that worked best for you. 
  • Store your carts on your property between collection days.  We encourage you to be considerate of your neighbours and the look of the neighbourhood when choosing your storage location.  You can store the carts in your garage, beside the garage, on the side of your home or along your fence line.  If storing in your back lane, if necessary, keep the carts as close to your property as possible and ensure they do not block traffic. 
  • Carts must be returned to your property no later than 10:00 PM on collection day.
  • If you need help with cart storage solutions or collection day cart placement, contact waste@okotoks.ca.
How can I fit three carts on my cul-de-sac?
  • Smaller streets or cul-de-sacs are a challenge for many urban centres in Alberta with automated cart collection. Municipalities encourage those of you living on a smaller street or cul-de-sac to not park on the street for collection day, allowing room for the carts. 
  • Some households place their carts in their driveway strategically so that there is room for one car to pull in and out without having to move the carts. Alternatively some neighbours have worked together logistically to place their carts in areas with more space. 
  • If you need assistance with cart placement, contact waste@okotoks.ca.
Who do I call if I am missing a cart, have a damaged cart or my carts did not get picked up?
  • To report a missed collection, call 403-938-8054.
I'm already self-hauling my recyclables to the Okotoks Eco Centre, why do I need a blue cart?
  • To achieve a significant reduction in the garbage we send to landfills, the program needs to be universal so we can all do our part to keep recyclables from entering the waste stream. A universal program also creates efficiencies for the waste programs, which is why every home, that is eligible, shares in the cost of the program.
  • Adding this convenience of curbside (or alley) collection will increase the recyclable tonnage collected.
  • We understand that some people use the Eco Centre as a meeting place. Please continue to do so – the coffee is on!  If you are self-hauling recyclables to the Eco Centre, keep doing so for those times when you have very large items or your cart is full. Don’t forget to take all of your recyclables that are not permitted in the blue carts, (e.g. paints, electronics recycling, hazardous waste, batteries, cell phones, propane cylinders, etc.)
  • For a full list of specialty recyclables, visit how to put waste in its place'
How will I know what week to put out my green cart when it is bi-weekly from November to April?

The Town of Okotoks website (okotoks.ca/collectionschedule) has an online collection schedule to help you remember your waste collection day. By typing in your address, you can access your own personalized Collection Schedule. 

  • Import your personalized Collection Schedule to your online iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar.
  • View, download (PDF), or print your personalized Collection Schedule.
  • Sign up for personalized reminders by email, voicemail or Twitter.
  • Make it even easier and download the Okotoks Waste Mobile App!
Why are the green carts collected bi-weekly from November to April?

 The green cart is collected bi-weekly from November to April throughout the winter season when it is colder outside and the carts will have little to no yard waste.

I'm already composting at home, why do I need a green cart?
  • If you are already composting at home - keep it up. The green cart can be used along with your backyard composter since the green cart accepts a wider range of food and yard waste - materials such as meat, bones, fish, shellfish, dairy products, pasta and breads. 
  • Your yard waste (grass and leaves) can be composted in your green cart. Whatever excess yard waste you have that doesn't fit in your backyard composter can be put in your green cart. Residents are also encouraged to grasscycle. Grasscycling is the natural recycling of grass by leaving clippings on the lawn after mowing. Grass clippings will quickly break down, returning nutrients to the soil and can actually produce a healthier looking lawn.
  • Pet waste (kitty litter and dog waste) are permissible in your green cart. Pet waste can be loose or if using a bag, it must be compostable.
Is it safe to put animal waste into the green cart?
  • There are no health and safety issues with putting pet waste and kitty litter in the green cart. During the composting process, the material is heated to temperatures at which any harmful bacteria is killed. Strict testing to meet Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Guidelines for Compost Quality is also conducted to ensure the compost is safe to use.
  • Animal waste can be either loose or in a compostable bag before placing it in the green cart.
  • Please do not use plastic or biodegradable bags because these bags do not break down during the composting process and will reduce the quality of the finished compost.
What about the smell of the food and pet waste in my green cart?
  • Put your green cart out for collection every week (bi-weekly Nov-April) - even if it is not full.
  • Keep the lid of the kitchen pail and green cart closed.
  • Empty your kitchen pail into your green cart every 2-3 days.
  • Consider freezing meat and fish waste until collection day - especially during warm weather.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of vinegar or baking soda in your kitchen pail and green cart to minimize odour.
Does the green cart attract pests or create odours?
  • The material placed in the green cart is the same material currently placed in your black cart. Lining your kitchen pail with newspaper or a compostable bag and emptying it frequently into your green cart, will reduce pests and odours. 
Where do I buy compostable bags?
  • When you are buying compostable bags, look for the certified compostable logos on the box. Some examples of retailers who would have certified compostable bags in Okotoks would be grocery stores, hardware stores, drugstores, and some pet stores. Some retailers would include Sobeys, No Frills, Safeway, Canadian Tire, Home Depot, Pet Planet, etc.
How do I clean my cart and kitchen pail?
  • Use a compostable bag, paper bag or newspaper liner in your kitchen pail and you can purchase compostable large bags for your green cart.
  • Layer your green cart to keep material from sticking. Place crumpled newspaper on the bottom of your cart and alternate layers of kitchen waste/grass clippings with soiled newspaper or leaves.
  • Rinse your kitchen pail with hot water or place inside your dishwasher.
  • Rinse your cart and pour the dirty water onto grass/gravel, not down the storm drain.
Can I opt out of the green cart program?
  • To achieve a significant reduction in garbage we send to landfills, it needs to be a universal program so we can all do our part to keep compostable waste out of the landfills. This is why every home, that is eligible, is sharing in the cost of the program.
What is the cost of the Universal Cart Program?

Here is a breakdown of the program costs as per Utility billing:

Oct - Dec 2016

  • Newly subscribed blue cart households will pay $0 – no charge, for a 3-month trial.
  • Single-family households, who have already subscribed to the blue cart, will have no change to their billing for 2016 and 2017.
  • All single-family households will have the green cart free with no charge on their Utility Bill.

Jan – Dec 2017

  • For newly subscribed blue cart households, there will be an additional $7.25/month compared to the 2016 rate for a total of $41.00 bi-monthly (or $20.50/month).
  • Households already subscribed to blue cart will have no change in fees.
  • All single-family households will have the green cart free with no charge to their utility bill.

Single-family households who had opted out of the blue cart program by the February 28, 2017 deadline, are being charged $30.50 bi-monthly (or $15.25/month).  

Will apartments and condos receive carts too?

The Town requires multi-family buildings to divert waste from landfills through recycling by June 2017.  More information will be available in 2017.

Why are landfills not a sustainable long-term solution?
  • Landfills have a finite lifespan based on the rate at which they accumulate waste. Designing and building new landfills is not a sustainable long-term solution to our growing waste production.
  • You may think when food and yard waste goes in the landfill that it breaks down quickly and becomes a part of the soil, but that is not what happens. Landfills create pollution in the form of methane emissions, leachate (heavy metals etc.), as well as other greenhouse gasses that can leak into the atmosphere. Turning food and yard waste into nutrient-rich compost for gardens, parks and farms is a better solution than burying it in a landfill.
  • A sustainable waste management system utilizes waste as a resource. The Alberta Government adopted this thinking in 2007 with its Too Good to Waste strategy; targeting waste reduction and management. As a community, we need to break the linear consumer system and adopt the cyclic system that recycling, composting, and reusing achieve. 
Why is the Town of Okotoks not lobbying manufacturers for smarter packaging?
  • Focusing on smarter packaging and decreasing consumerism in society today is absolutely imperative. The Town of Okotoks unfortunately has no influence on what products are sold and how the merchandise is packaged. In that sense, the Town’s Waste Management has to be reactive to the type of waste received and how to manage that stream. The Town is doing its best to be proactive in how we manage the waste that is coming in through our three streams of waste: garbage, recyclables and organics.
  • Consumers do have a choice every time they are purchasing something.  They are directly voting with money and actions. The change starts with consumers opting to buy something that will last longer and has better and more environmentally friendly packaging, bringing reusable bags to the markets, etc.  
  • Governments around the world have all contemplated the idea of how to control issues like this and some opted to intervene by setting up bylaws for merchants and residents to follow, while others have let the free market rule. In Okotoks, we are providing the black, blue and green carts, to provide a sound option to manage the waste that can be reused and recycled in a cost efficient way for everyone. 
Why don’t we have a ‘pay as you throw’ system for garbage collection?

As technology that meets our requirements becomes available and has been thoroughly tested, the Town hopes to either include the ability to adjust collection frequency for individual households or for the general community.  We also are watching and learning efficiencies from other municipalities in Alberta and other Provinces who have had longer experience in waste reduction programs and utilizing multiple automated carts. 

Do other municipalities currently offer universal automated cart collection (black and blue cart)?
In Alberta, over the past decade, many municipalities have rolled out black (garbage) and blue (recycling) carts.  Municipalities in Alberta with universal (mandatory) blue and black curbside collection include:  Town of Beaumont, City of Calgary, City of Edmonton, Town of Cochrane, City of Chestermere, City of Grand Prairie, City of Red Deer and Town of High River as examples.  Approximately over 80% of larger municipalities (more than 10,000 people) in Alberta are currently providing a universal (mandatory) curbside recycling collection program.  

Out of all the municipalities that rolled out mandatory carts, the Town of Okotoks & Strathmore, AB are the only communities that we are aware of that introduced the blue cart program as a subscription based recycling rather than mandatory community wide service. Strathmore is a smaller Town of approximate 13,000 people.

How common are universal organics collection (green cart) and composting?

Of almost two hundred municipalities researched in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, almost three quarters (73%) are offering a curbside kitchen waste / organics program. The Maritimes’ Provinces including Nova Scotia, have had universal/mandatory curbside full programs (garbage, recycling and organics) for many years.

  • The research indicated that Ontario had 62.5% of local municipalities was offering organics. The population of the local municipalities in Ontario that is offering an organics program is approximately 11.2 million or 81% of the population. Similar numbers were found in British Columbia, where 62.7% of local governments are offering an organics program.
  • The population of the British Columbia local municipalities that offers organics amounted to 3.9 million, or similarly to Ontario, 83.9% of the total population.
  • In Alberta it was found that two-thirds or 21 of the 33 local municipalities (over 10,000 people) are offering a curbside organics program. The population of these local governments amounted to 3.1 million people or 86.90% of Alberta’s total population.

Although the Town of Okotoks has a reputation for being a sustainable leader, we are late to the party on introducing a Universal Cart Program.  There are many advantages for the environment and that is why many municipalities in Alberta are joining the rest of Canada to implement a universal green and blue cart program; the Town of Olds for many years, the City of Chestermere in January 2016, the City of Calgary in April 2017 for example. 

How was it decided that the Town was going to implement the Universal Cart Program?
The first Resource Recovery Plan was developed through extensive public consultation in 2008 and adopted by Council in March 2009.  Strategies included expanded recycling and organic waste diversion programs as key contributors to waste diversion.  Since that time, new implementation plans were created in various years. In December 2014, Council endorsed the updated 2020 Waste Management Plan which identified critical areas that should be addressed to achieve an 80% waste diversion target for the community. The strategies and programs from the plan specific to the 2016 implementation included:
  • Implementing a universal recycling collection (blue cart) and a universal organic waste collection (green cart) program for all single-family households
  • Evolving the Okotoks Recycling Centre at its new location into an Eco Centre, providing for safe disposal of excess and niche materials

In 2014, extensive public consultation resulted in creating the Okotoks Community Vision which was approved by Council in early 2015.  A specific Value to be a ‘green’ community is further emphasized in the ‘Environment’ theme as a result of many comments regarding citizens desire to be a leader in environmentally responsible services such as recycling, composting and waste management.

In the spring of 2015 through January 2016, the Town developed Community Sustainability Plan (CSP) with extensive community consultation. The final CSP approved by Council in April 2016 included a key action of “Expand Environmental Initiatives”, and specifically to “Implement universal recycling and organic waste cart collection program” as a result of community feedback.

Other considerations include that the Summer Conservation Educator program which has focused on waste reduction since 2010.  In 2015 and 2016 alone, they have visited over 3,000 households to educate residents on waste management, including a strong emphasis on the organic waste program in 2016.

Other general publications and notices to residents to advise them of the intent to move to a universal waste management program included for example, the 2016 budget process and final approval of same, and the 2015 Community Report.

Universal Cart Program Brochure

Read the Universal Cart brochure - your source for program information.

Universal Cart Brochure
Universal Cart Video

Learn all about the Universal Cart Program in this quick informative video!

Universal Cart Video

Learn more about the green and blue carts.