City of Calgary crews are peeking into green carts in select neighbourhoods to monitor what Calgarians are sending away to be composted.

According to Sharon Howland, program management leader with the City of Calgary, workers review cart usage throughout the year with three areas of focus.

“We do capacity studies where we’re measuring how full the carts actually are, we do participation studies where we’re determining how often people are putting their carts out and then we do contamination studies and that’s where we’re looking for unacceptable or hazardous materials in the carts,” explained Howland. “We do about 12 of each, each year, and it represents a few thousand households annually. We’re just aiming for a statistically representative sample for the entire city.”

Howland says the contamination audits are conducted visually and crew members do not touch the waste.

“We tag the cart if we identify a hazardous or unacceptable material inside of it,” said Howland of the learning opportunity. “We turn the cart sideways so the truck doesn’t collect it.”

Unacceptable items that have been found in green carts include clothing, textiles and pillows, but the most frequently spotted item that cannot be composted are plastic bags. The City of Calgary’s waste management bylaw states a fine of $250 can be levied against those who use the carts improperly but Howland says the City has yet to issue a single ticket.

Howland says Calgarians have responded well to the program that aims to extend the life of landfills by diverting food and yard waste.

“Calgarians have messaged us just shocked by how much they’ve reduced their waste over the past few months,” said Howland. “We’ve been astounded by the participation of Calgarians so far.”

Calgarians with questions regarding which items belong in which cart are encouraged to visit the City of Calgary’s What Goes Where? tool