‘Raccoon-proof’ green bins get thumbs up in East York

Every Toronto home should have its own bin by the end of November, city says

Enya Best’s green bin was stolen and she wants it back.

The East York resident says her house was vacant for a few months before she moved in. During that time, someone absconded with the green bin and Best is now left with a mess on her hands whenever the neighbourhood raccoon chooses to dine out at her home.

“The city is trying to track [the bin down] before they give us a new one,” she said. “It’s a hassle to be on your way, walk out to your car and see garbage everywhere. Then you’re late because you had to get down and dirty.”

Once Best gets her bin, whether it’s the original or a new one, she’ll join the rest of Toronto in its fight against hungry raccoons. The bins should be fully distributed to all homeowners before the end of November, according to city officials.

When the new bins were first introduced in the spring of 2015, Mayor John Tory claimed they were “raccoon-proof.” They can only be opened by a latch, which the raccoon’s hands are not large enough to turn, or by force of gravity, such as being held upside down by a garbage truck.

And while some residents say the bins are not all they’re cracked up to be, overall feedback “has been very positive. We have not had a lot of complaints regarding the new bins,” said Siobhan Ramsey, a communications specialist for the City of Toronto. “If residents are having issues with the bin, we encourage them to let us know by calling 311. The city will send a team out to investigate.”

Meanwhile, those who are concerned that raccoons will go hungry as a result of the new bins need not worry. Suzanne MacDonald, a professor at York University, is currently doing research into whether the raccoon-proof bins will result in “skinny raccoons.” So far, she sees little evidence of that.

“The raccoons can’t be relying exclusively on our green bins for food,” she said, as they only have access to them once a week. That means they’re finding food elsewhere.

“Our raccoons are very large, and many of them could stand to lose a few pounds,” MacDonald said. “If they get slimmer, the females will have fewer babies each year, and the raccoon population will naturally decrease, which is good for the raccoons, and good for the humans.”

As for the latch that’s designed to make the bins impenetrable, MacDonald says it’s hard to say how soon East York’s  raccoons will adapt to the obstacles.

The new bins are much bigger and heavier than the old bins, which makes them difficult to climb and hard to knock over, she said. However, she added, the bins can be opened by raccoons if other animals, such as rats or squirrels, chew through the plastic and make a hole large enough to admit raccoon fingers.

“If the bins are latched and stored properly, the raccoons can’t get in,” MacDonald said, “and at least from what I’ve seen with my motion-sensitive infrared cameras, the raccoons soon give up.”