Raccoon Resistance

After Toronto unveiled its “raccoon-resistant” compost bins in 2016, some people feared the animals would be starved but many more celebrated the innovative design. Rolling out this novel locked bin opened a new battlefront in city’s ongoing “war on raccoons.”

Toronto’s new organic waste bins had to meet strict design requirements. They needed to work in a place with a wide range of temperatures and be able to withstand rain, snow, pooling water and flash freezes. They also had to have a handle with enough resistance to keep animals out but that people with disabilities could still use — light but still heavy enough not to be easily tipped over. And most importantly: the lock had to help keep out urban “trash pandas.”

The resulting green receptacles are about twice the size of the old model they replaced, with bigger wheels and a rodent-resistant rim. Where the old bin just had a latch, the new one has a rotating handle on the lid that connects to a disk on the inside, which, when the lid is shut, fastens into a German-made “gravity lock.” This feature makes it easier to flip the bins upside down in order to empty them. Dozens of raccoons were pitted against the test model and they all failed to get in. The city has since deployed a half a million of these bins.

Journalist Amy Dempsey was researching the bins and raccoon behavior when her reporting took an unexpected turn down her own garbage-strewn alleyway. Had local raccoons finally figured out how to defeat the greatest human effort in our “war” against their kind? Her accidental investigation found answers amid the scraps.

Credits

Production

Producer Katie Mingle spoke with Journalist Amy Dempsey, investigative feature writer for the Toronto Star. Coda on Rebecca the White House raccoon with Kurt Kohlstedt.

  1. Michael Taylor

    Love this story, I grew up in Oakville, just south of Toronto and never really realized that raccoons weren’t as crazy outside of southern Ontario until I moved out west. My favorite raccoon story is about the first week we we received a dedicated green bin; my family were convinced we were more targeted by these villains than others in the neighborhood, likely due to my mom’s superior cooking, but the first time we locked away all the goodies in our green bin they couldn’t get at the trash they loved. Presumably it was a lengthy siege, but the green bin ultimately won, so the raccoons left, but not without taking a large poop right in the center of our door matt at the back door, near the bin, as a last tiny fury middle finger. I’m still amazed at the pure malice.

    Of course they figured out the bin by the next week.

  2. Marni

    I’m no bin engineer, but one solution seems to be a removable lock handle. No handle? No access.

  3. Steve

    I live in the Raccoon capital, so imagine when my surprise when I visited Busan, South Korea, for my son’s wedding – and one stop on the incredible tour of the city his in-laws planned for us, was the city’s Raccoon cafe, Raccoonamatata! For the price of a very expensive cup of coffee, you can play with the Cafe’s pet raccoons. We did, and they were delightful animals, as long as we kept paying up for food for them. I found this with quick search: https://agirlwithgeo.com/2017/10/08/racoon-cafe-in-busan-south-korea-whats-life-without-a-friendly-fur/

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