Community composting: diverting organic material from landfills to growing

A key element for the City of Vancouver to become a sustainable, ecological city is how we handle our organic waste. Community composting is an emerging idea, but one that could be key in reducing Vancouver’s footprint and actually create energy and productive soil for a local food network.

A brief history of composting

Currently, in the most-dense areas of the city there is no systematic means for the collection and diversion of organic waste from the landfill. In residential neighbourhoods the city collects garbage yard trimmings and backyard composting is facilitated by providing homeowners composting containers at discounted prices.

On the City of Vancouver’s “composting Factsheet” states:

“Backyard compost bins have already been distributed to some 42,000 Vancouver households that have yard space – about 56 per cent of such households now use backyard composters, which diverts an estimated 6, 000 tonnes of organic materials from the landfill every year. The City provides apartment dwellers with more-compact worm composters, including a one-hour instructional workshop at the Compost Garden at nomical cost. “

While these efforts are a good start there is still some distance to go to divert all organic material from the landfill. Voluntary measures are always a reasonable start in public policy but if the City is going to reach its goal of “Zero Waste” some mandatory benchmark of waste reduction will be needed in the future.

The idea of Zero Waste is an ambitious policy initiative to dramatically divert garbage from the landfill and is one of the goals of the Greenest City Action Plan.CoV on composting

But note the following statement on the City’s Website

“Please note: At this time, the City will not be able to provide this collection service to multi-unit residences such as apartments and condominiums, unless your building already has a City yard trimmings cart and only if the cart is filled mostly with yard trimmings and a small percentage of food scraps. The City is not able to provide food scraps collection service to businesses. We have compiled a list of a private companies that can provide food waste collection services to your building. “CoV

Key gaps in organic waste diversion is the lack of systematic citywide curbside collection and the diversion organic waste from restaurants.

Community Composting

Another avenue that the City could explore, facilitate and promote is the idea of “community composting”. Although an emerging concept, community composting has been explored in other jurisdictions with some success. Check out this project in South Liverpool in the UKComposting Network

What community composting would it look like in Vancouver is still an unexplored area of public policy. Imagine if every nieghbourhood had a composting hub where organic wasted could be turned into good growing soil. Organic waste would be diverted from landfills and friendships through gardening could grow from the stuff we currently toss in the garbage.
random sample of composters in Vancouver

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