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More Community Composting Programs Eyed

Carman saved $35,000 last year in landfill operation costs by residents putting out their empty jars, tins and plastic tubs for a curbside recycling program.

Now the town hopes to achieve more savings doing the same thing with potato peels and apple cores.

Earlier this spring free plastic compost pails were delivered to every one of the town’s 1,100 households for residents to deposit their kitchen wastes. Public works staff now pick it up every Monday morning.

This seemed a logical next step and another way to save on garbage- handling fees, said Carman Councillor Brad Johnston.

“We don’t expect this to be as big as recycling,” he said. “We wanted to at least try it.”

ORGANIC WASTE

Carman may be in for a surprise. Statistics Canada data show as much as 40 per cent of all the stuff we throw out is organic waste. That’s the same volume as all the tin, glass, paper and plastics recycling programs are now trying to divert.

Yet, organic recycling is as rare as other forms of it are now commonplace.

Just 25 per cent of municipalities – 48 out of 197 municipalities – in Manitoba offer any form of composting as part of a local waste management strategy. Much of what’s done is separation of yard waste from other waste streams at the local landfill.

“All we have right now is a large pile of grass,” said Kerry Lawless, CAO of the town of Rossburn. But Rossburn is interested in trying to do more, he adds. Like all municipalities, Rossburn wants to extend the life of its landfill as well as reduce the cost to throwing away garbage, he said. And it is costing more, even though some residents remain oblivious to that fact.

“We’re looking at ways to divert waste from the landfill and obviously one of those is composting,” said Lawless.

He was in Brandon last week along with other municipal officials and their public works staff learning about how to set up and operate larger-scale composting programs. The workshops were held at the Agriculture Canada Brandon Research Station and jointly hosted by Compost Council of Canada and a number of provincial groups including the newly formed Manitoba Compost Association.

SAVES MONEY

Recycling kitchen waste not only saves money and room at the dump, but produces an end-use product with a variety of markets and applications. It’s also a way to reduce greenhouse gas by limiting the methane released by organic material as it decomposes. And it helps maintain soil health and quality by returning valuable nutrients.

Susan Antler, executive director of the Compost Council of Canada said she believes the main reason we do so little organic waste recycling is that composting is just old-fashioned. When it comes to solutions to modern-day problems “we’re all looking for the newest technology,” she said. Politics play a role too, adds Antler. “Politicians respond to residential demand.”

The thrust of the CCC’s programming is to spread the word on where successful, well-managed composting programs now operate, and there are more of them.

The Canadian composting industry is growing. And while composting has typically been taken up first by smaller centres, larger cities such as Guelph and Halifax are now Canadian examples of cities that eye organic materials as a resource, not waste, and are introducing combinations of residential backyard and curbside composting programs to recycle and utilize it. Large-scale composting facilities are also gaining a presence in Canada.

One such facility now exists at the City of Brandon’s Eastview Landfill site.

The city has been running a yearlong curbside pickup pilot project for the last year, with 500 participating families separating their kitchen wastes to be composted at Eastview. The compost produced is used on the city’s parks and gardens.

With about a third of all Brandon’s garbage estimated to be organic waste, they see significantly reducing their volumes this way, said Tom Keep, environmental initiatives manager for the city, adding that after Brandon’s pilot project ends they’ll make recommendations to the city. The direction they’ll probably head is to adopt a voluntary curbside program, Keep said. Many Brandonites are keen to see this happen and voluntary adoption will result in best practices achieved, he said.

“The system we have now is a great way to pick it up easily and make it into usable product,” said Keep.

EXPANDING SERVICE

Winkler, Altona and Steinbach are other key Manitoba communities that already operate extensive composting programs.

More are likely to follow. The province now requires all municipalities operating a landfill site to pay a $10-per-tonne Waste Reduction and Recycling Support (WRARS) levy. The levy, which returns 80 per cent of revenues collected to municipalities based on their levels of recycling achieved, was created as an incentive for all communities large and small to find ways to reduce waste.

Jim Ferguson, manager of municipal and business programs with Green Manitoba, said their program is looking at ways to help support organics diversion through the same program.

Meanwhile, the new Manitoba Compost Association, incorporated this winter, is working on a variety of ways to jump-start composting in Manitoba, said Gerry Dube, the organization’s vice-chair. One initiative in the works is creation of a compost co-operative to provide custom composting services to both municipalities and farmers.

They’ve also approached municipalities about starting to do more composting. Dube is convinced many more Manitobans would be willing to compost their organic wastes if given the chance.

“If we give people the opportunity and do some promotion I think we can get there a lot faster,” he said. [email protected]

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Thesystemwehavenow isagreatwaytopick itupeasilyandmakeit intousableproduct.”

– TOM KEEP, ENVIRONMENTAL INITIATIVES MANAGER, CITY OF BRANDON

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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