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.