Composting is about to get a boost in Manitoba with the emergence of a new group focused on advancing both the science and the art of managing organic waste.
The Manitoba Composting Association was formed after a meeting last September of representatives from Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Ini t i a t i v e s , de v e lopment groups, municipalities, farmers and university researchers. The umbrella organization is expected to serve all those involved in composting initiatives, whether at the municipal or farm level.
Randy Eros, a Ste. Anne sheep producer who has used composting on his farm to handle manure and dead-stock, said the group wants to see use of the practice expand by providing knowledge and support.
“I think this will prove to be an important organization,” he said.
Larger composting operations now exist in almost every other province to handle municipal solid wastes, livestock manure and various food wastes, but composting practices are still in early stages in Manitoba.
Compost is a potential source of soil nutrients as well as a good soil conditioner that can reduce compaction, improve soil porosity and infiltration, and increase populations and biodiversity of soil micro-and macro-biota. Properly composted organic material doesn’t spread weed seeds, pathogens or odours and reduces volumes of material to spread. Expanded composting activities could return a wide variety of benefits to farmers and society in general, ranging from recycling key soil nutrients to better management of agricultural byproducts, says Gerry Dubé, who chairs the subcommittee developing the new organization’s constitution and bylaws.
Dubé, who has operated his own custom composting operation from his farm at La Broquerie, has promoted the idea of an umbrella composting association for several years. He says there’s huge interest among municipalities to introduce composting into a local recycling regime.
Collecting household organic wastes and composting them will extend the life of landfill sites while turning what’s now organic household waste product into a rich soil replenisher, he said.
Sending organic waste to landfills to rot also results in large releases of methane into the atmosphere, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a form of recycling,” he said. “We would be taking the leftover biomass that we produce and instead of burying it in a big hole we would recycle it into our food system.”
A number of municipalities are now promoting backyard composting and have programs to compost leaf and yard waste. The City of Brandon recently launched an 18-month curbside compost pickup pilot project to determine the viability of large-scale residential composting. An estimated one-third of all garbage now destined for the Brandon landfill is considered organic material.
Dubé said one of the main activities of the new association will be making more information and educational resources available to promote more composting activities, including basics such as proper site selection and maintenance.
One drawback for many farmers is properly locating suitable all-weather sites.
Another issue is creating markets for quality product. Quality compost is a potentially valuable product to gardeners, landscapers and others.
Other roles for the association would be facilitating more research and development related to composting processes, and to liaise with government around regulatory issues.
Dubé said the group is also eyeing the possibility of creating a composting co-op which, as a separate entity of the association, would offer composting and consulting services.
“Ithinkthiswillprove tobeanimportant organization.”
– RANDY EROS, STE. ANNE SHEEP PRODUCER