By Neco Cockburn, Ottawa Citizen

Residents tossed slightly more kitchen scraps and other organic material into green bins last year, but the total remained far below the amount the city pays to have turned into compost.

The city sent 55,420 tonnes of green-bin material to be processed in 2012, up from 55,060 tonnes in 2011, Councillor Maria McRae announced on Thursday.

Although it’s too early to declare a trend, a larger increase in green-bin material seen after the city switched to bi-weekly trash pickup toward the end of last year is “encouraging,” said McRae, who chairs council’s environment committee.

The amount of leaf and yard waste disposed of in 2012 was also up a bit, McRae said.

The city is in commercial arbitration with Orgaworld, the company that processes the organic material, over how much of the yard waste it must handle.

For now, yard waste put out separately from green bins is typically taken to be ground up at the Trail Road landfill.

The total amount of organic waste disposed of by residents is still far lower than the 80,000 tonnes a year the city pays Orgaworld to process under its contract.

Still, the program keeps a large amount of garbage out of the landfill, McRae said.

“Extending the life of the landfill is one thing I think all Ottawans can agree with.”

An audit of the Orgaworld contract is expected to be released once a decision is handed down in the arbitration case, possibly this spring, but McRae said there isn’t much paperwork that indicates how staff reached the target contained in the contract.

There are promising signs, McRae said. The amount of green-bin material collected in November and December went up after the city started picking up trash every two weeks (green bins are still collected every week).

That wasn’t the main reason for the switch, she said – cost savings and having fewer big trucks rumbling down streets were – but it’s a positive side-effect.

A year-over-year comparison for November and December shows the amount of “residual” waste taken to the landfill fell to 26,070 tonnes in 2012 from 32,090 tonnes in 2011, while organics (including leaf and yard waste) increased to 5,630 tonnes from 4,720 tonnes.

That comparison also shows that blue-box plastic recycling went up by 13 per cent while black-box paper material decreased by two per cent. The exact numbers were not available.

While the increase in green-bin tonnage is promising, it’s too early to say whether the numbers seen in the two months indicate a trend that will continue over a full year, said McRae.

She and Councillor Tim Tierney, who chairs the information technology subcommittee, also announced that city staff are working on a mobile application that tells people what’s to be picked up when.