Green Waste Programs

Chris Ling
Published September 13, 2006

Case Summary

A number of Canadian municipalities have identified that the diversion of residential organic waste from the municipal waste stream will provide significant benefits for the sustainability of the community, extend the life of their landfill facilities and reduce the potential for leachate and the production of methane. Some municipalities have tackled the issue by collecting pre-sorted organic waste from residential properties as part of the municipal waste collection services. In this case study, we look at the use of bags, bins and carts for the collection of waste. We also look at the effect of having an integrated provincial-wide waste management strategy, which includes the banning of organic waste from landfills entirely (such as in Nova Scotia) and explore alternatives to central composting facilities. This case study focuses on two examples of organic waste collection – one province-wide in Nova Scotia and one city-wide in Whitehorse. These were chosen to provide two examples contrasting provincial with town scale systems, and where the collection stands alone or is integrated into a comprehensive waste management strategy.

Figure 1. Green Bins ready for collection in Toronto

Green bins along the roadside in Toronto


Sustainable Development Characteristics

In Canada, 50% of all solid waste is organic, and, therefore, potentially compostable1. Organic waste that enters the municipal solid waste stream often ends up in landfill. In addition to filing up landfills, as the waste biodegrades it produces leachate, which could infiltrate the ground waste and potentially contaminate drinking water supplies, and methane, which costs money to control and has the potential to create local pollution problems. Most municipalities have policies to reduce the amount of organic waste in the solid waste stream, most frequently these programmes encourage residents to set up composting in their backyards and in many cases municipalities, for example Kingston, ON, Vancouver, BC, Innisfail, AB, and many others, provide the resources for householders to compost their yard waste – either by taking it to compost sites, or by organising collections.

There are disadvantages to these methods: some compostable material can’t be composted in standard backyard composting equipment due to odour, health and rodent concerns (materials such as meat, fish and bone). Also, apartment dwellers and others who do not have the resources or storage facilities for composting are unable to backyard compost. In order to increase the amount of organic waste that is diverted from landfill a number of municipalities have instigated curbside collection of organic waste alongside collections of garbage and recyclable material. This reduces the amount of waste entering landfill. In 2002, across Ontario where organic waste is disposed of largely into landfills or by backyard/on-site composting, 0.14% of generated waste was composted2. By contrast, in Nova Scotia where the provincial move to remove organic waste from landfills has resulted in 80 to 90% of residents disposing of their organic waste in green bins in one of eighteen composting plants around the province –  up to 50% of household waste is made up of compostable material, which represents a significant waste diversion3. Reducing its organic component, makes a landfill cheaper to operate and less likely to pollute the surrounding land, air, and water. The production of compost allows the potential for cost recovery through the sale of the material, and reduces the dependence on commercial compost by gardeners and landscapers, which may not come from sustainable sources and/or inputs.

Lundie and Peters (2005)4 have found that, of the various disposal methods available for food waste management, the backyard system is the simplest, whereas the centralised system is the most complex. They also found that centralised composting is more energy intensive than most other options, such as garborators, and co-disposal, as a result of the transportation requirement of the collection system, although the example system they were studying operated a parallel two weekly collection process. In contrast, the typical approach in Canada is to replace a regular collection with an organics collection – thereby reducing the transport impacts. It also depends on the method of composting used centrally – anaerobic systems are much less energy intensive than aerobic systems5.

Critical Success Factors

Nova Scotia

  1. Initially, there was significant investment in research by the provincial government, in order for the policy and legislation to be workable, and to win the confidence of the municipalities and residents of Nova Scotia. This process was started as a result of citizen pressure, supported and undertaken by consultants who were influential in the process, and led by the Solid Waste Resource Management group in the provincial department of Environment and Labour.

  2. Operating at a provincial scale was vital for economies of scale, allowing for efficient collection of waste in a coordinated manner. The scale also meant that a critical mass of knowledge was achieved leading to knowledge diffusion, increasing the opportunities in the province for employment in waste management and waste consultancy.

  3. Including the organic waste strategy as part of a comprehensive waste strategy.

  4. Using both legislative sticks (e.g. potential for fines, and actual examples of whole loads from a municipality being rejected at the landfill) and resource carrots (e.g. money gained from recyclables such as bottle deposits is partly returned to the municipalities based on the amount of waste diverted from landfill) to encourage municipalities to improve their performance.


  1. The biggest barrier to the project from the moment of conception was the lack of council support. The slow progression through two small pilots was essential in achieving the support of both the council and community, and the success of the project.

  2. The availability of territorial and provincial funding allowed an initial solid waste management review, which led to the project.

  3. Using social marketing through volunteers in neighbourhoods to win community support.

General Points

  1. Green bin collection works best in areas with denser populations and economies of scale that enable significant volume diversion from landfills. In remoter and/or rural areas, investment in better equipment for backyard composting may be more appropriate, supported by education and information dissemination.

  2. Education and communication is always vital. Use of social marketing techniques in Whitehorse and the use of slow roll out/piloting in many places helps to ensure  people and neighbourhoods ‘see’ the value and ease of use of green bin collection.

Community Contact Information

Bob Kenney
Solid Waste-Resource Analyst Nova Scotia
Department of the Environment and Labour
PO Box 697
Halifax, NS
B3J 2T8
(902) 424-2388

Sabine Schweiger
Environmental Coordinator
City of Whitehorse
2121 Second Avenue
Whitehorse, Yukon
Y1A 1C2
(867) 668-8312

What Worked?

  1. Whitehorse achieved success using social marketing to recruit pilot volunteers.

  2. Green carts allow for easy and efficient collection, and provide a focus around which education and publicity can be developed.

  3. Residents like the collection system as it is easy to manage and is part of an established system, requiring little extra effort.

  4. Rejection of waste at collection or landfill, if organic content is too high, ensures monitoring takes place curbside and increases participation in waste separation.

  5. Participation rates are high especially if unsorted waste is rejected.

What Didn’t Work?

  1. Biodegradable bags are not as successful as green carts/bins in providing clean, easy and efficient waste management, or as good quality compost.

  2. In order for cost savings to be achieved, organic waste collection needs to be part of a comprehensive waste management strategy.

  3. The sustainable benefits of central composting are not as great in rural areas or where neighbourhood composting is possible.

Financial Costs and Funding Sources

Nova Scotia

A publicly available and comprehensive cost benefit analysis for Nova Scotia's solid waste management program, including environment and social costs and benefits, was undertaken by Genuine Progress Index Atlantic6 (GPI).

Funding for collecting compostable materials has been met largely by the various municipal budgets, although in general, the solid waste management funding is returned to the municipalities through the receipt of bottle deposits (50 % of deposits from bottles goes back to the consumer, 50 % goes to municipalities, research and education projects supporting the waste management program).

The program does, of course, cost municipalities more in collection costs, plus most municipalities provide their householders with green carts or bins for the storage of organic waste between collections (normally every other week). In most municipalities across the province this was added to the existing collection of garbage and recyclables either weekly or bi-weekly.

The closest thing to a standard economic comparison for the organic component of the solid waste management program is a study done by the Town of Bedford (part of the Regional Municipality of Halifax) and updated in the GPI accounts. While the figures were produced with the aim of supporting backyard composting over curbside collection as the regional municipality was initially resistant to the idea of curbside collection, they nevertheless give a breakdown of costs.

Table 1. Costs and avoided costs of backyard composting in Halifax, based on the Bedford backyard composting study ($C2000)7

   Year 1  Year 2
 Bin subsidization (37,235 bins @ $37)  $1,377,695  
 Public education and promotion  $112,042  $112,042
 Total  $1,489,737  $112,042
 Avoided costs    
 Curbside collection (5,344t @ $75)  $400,800  $400,800
 Disposal (5,344t @ $59/tonne net )  $315,296  $315,296
 Total  $716,096  $716,096
 Program costs less avoided costs  $773,641  ($604,054)

The figures were devised for a specific agenda, and also do not include the details, such as the cost of green carts, or an analysis of costs to the town if a load is rejected at the landfill as the content of organic waste is too high, but it doesgive an indication of the some of the costs. Also, the figures do not show the opportunity costs, or the long-term costs of not reducing solid waste accumulation.


Grants were available to the municipal government for the initial strategy and the construction of the compost facility from the territorial government. The territory also paid for the introduction of compost collection at schools within the municipality. The grants allowed the municipality to carry out an initial waste management strategy.

Residents pay for the bio-degradable bags in which the compost is collected. Residents are also charged $7.25 per month for waste collection and disposal (garbage and organics). This pays totally for the collection ($5.25 per month per household) and for 50% of the operating costs of the landfill. Remaining costs are covered through general tax revenues.

The municipality pays for tipping and collection costs through the residential charge and general taxation. These costs have increased since the program started. In 20058, the landfill operators General Waste Management charged a flat fee of $220,000, and in 20059, the compost facility (managed by a non-profit organisation Raven Recycling) charged per tonne, which cost a total of $50,000. As more waste is diverted from the landfill, the program costs more. Revenue earned by Raven Recycling from the sale of compost (at $7 per 55lb bag) offsets its costs of operation.

A cost benefit study has not been done, however, the landfill life has been extended – although its life expectancy was over 100 years anyway, and currently only 1,000 t out of 15,000 t entering the facility is compostable material. Some jobs have been created by Raven Recycling. Sustainable compost is also available for purchase by residents, and the municipal landscaping department gets 25% of the compost for free.

The municipal administration is lobbying for the introduction of carts as there are problems with the bags. The cost to supply householders with carts will be $1M, but collection costs will be reduced. Council is, however, unwilling to support this due to the initial capital outlay involved. The Canada Winter Games, held in Whitehorse in 2007, will purchase a supply ($40,000 worth) of green and other garbage carts for its aim of holding a zero waste games. These carts will then be given to the municipality to run a cart collection system city pilot with over 450 households. It is hoped this will increase participation and convince council to purchase the carts city-wide.

There have been no cost savings. In fact costs have increased. Although free compost is used by the landscaping department, they would probably do less landscaping if it was not available rather than spend more money on other sources of compost.

Research Analysis

Analysis leads to these key observations:

  1. There is some debate as to whether a centralised system of composting is more sustainable than neighbourhood or backyard composting. Figures for at which point density increases the effectiveness of a centralised system over a neighbourhood system are not available, but would be worth exploring. A centralised system makes composting easier for the householder, resulting in more composted material, providing greater environmental benefits. Also, economies of scale make waste management more financially viable. In addition, central large scale projects increase the viability of creating a market for the compost – generating income for the municipalities to help cover the costs. However, the centralised system has greatly increased waste transportation16 leading to increased traffic and air pollution. An intermediate solution might be a neighbourhood-wide system that could also provide a local area with their composting needs.

  2. The degree to which curbside collection is the most successful way of achieving sustainable benefits needs to be researched. Annapolis Royal – a rural area of Nova Scotia - has not implemented organics collection, but has provided free backyard composters and composting cones, which enable the composting of materials not normally suitable for backyard systems (e.g. meat, fish, and bones). Waste diversion in Annapolis Royal is more successful than other backyard only composting programs17. GPI recommends that centralized collection may be the best option in urban areas, but not necessarily in rural ones. What are probably needed are diverse, distributed systems in lower density areas and a centralised system in higher density areas. There is probably a continuum from individual to centralised systems as population density increases.

  3. There is anecdotal evidence in Nova Scotia and Whitehorse, which suggests that centralised organics collection is more likely to engage local people than a backyard/neighbourhood approach. Greater engagement with residents is likely to increase the amount of residents taking part in organics waste diversion. Even though the sustainable benefits per person may be less with a centralised system when compared with neighbourhood or backyard systems, the total waste diverted by the community may be sufficiently great as to outweigh the disadvantages. Across Canada, municipalities with organic waste collection generally divert more waste than those that don’t. However, waste collection is usually part of a wider comprehensive waste minimisation strategy involving more recycling and similar strategies. It is difficult to assess the specific contribution of organics collection.

  4. The lack of cost benefits in Whitehorse compared to Nova Scotia may be linked to a lack of critical mass. Size of operation perhaps prevents significant cost savings, and inhibits the development of significant knowledge capital and improvements to the local economy. Because of its remote location, Whitehorse is unable to develop more comprehensive sustainable waste strategies as recyclables are not collected by the municipality – the cost of trucking them to a processing facility means that centralised privately owned and operated depots are the only recycling facilities available in the municipality. As with the issues with collection in rural areas, the question remains whether there is a minimum population size and density for sustainable composting collection processes as opposed to improved backyard composting?

  5. The distribution of green bin programs across the country suggests that there are low barriers to implementation. Despite potential issues with extreme cold, there are examples in most climate zones, and examples is most community sizes – although, as previously stated, the gren bin programs programs may be more appropriate in larger communities with denser populations.

Detailed Background Case Description

Dealing with organic waste

Organic material entering the landfill produces management problems with the production of leachate and methane. Most municipalities within Canada have taken some measures to reduce the amount of organic waste that enters the landfill. These measures include:

The encouragement and subsidisation of backyard composting

Usually the least effort to the municipality, backyard composting relies on active participation of householders and, even with a high level of education and promotion, is likely to achieve lower waste diversion rates than other forms of composting programs, especially in high urban settings. In addition, most backyard equipment is unable to handle the most extreme forms of organic waste such as meat and feces. Also, large volumes of waste, for example from restaurants or multi-unit dwellings, cannot normally be accommodated by this method. Examples of municipalities which provide subsidised backyard composters are Chilliwack, BC, Vaughan, ON, and Hamilton, ON.

Provision of “bring your own” neighbourhood composting facilities

This also relies on the active participation of residents to bring compostable material to local composting facilities, but reduces the problems of more noxious and/or voluminous organic waste and generates more commercially viable compost. The technology available for large composting facilities allows the compost to be produced at higher temperatures, killing pathogens and speeding up the composting process from that achievable through backyard composting. Facilities such as this are being considered, or implemented in North Cowichan, BC, and Winnipeg, MB.

Sorting post-collection

Some municipalities (e.g. Edmonton, AB) sort their waste after collection and delivery to a processing plant. Halifax, NS, sorts garbage post-collection in addition to having a program of separation prior to collection. This increases the amount of waste diverted, but reduces the quality of the compost. All potentially compostable material (including paper, cardboard, biodegradable plastics, etc) is then shredded and composted centrally. Compost produced by this approach is not as good quality as that produced by pre-sorting waste, but is nevertheless useable as a supplement for other compost, and as subsurface layer in the creation of new lawns. The process also reduces the total waste entering landfill even further. In Halifax, the waste diversion rate is 56%10, compared with a provincial average of 46%11, and although what proportion of this is due exclusively to the organics component is unclear, the additional post-sorting does improve diversion.

Curbside collection

This is most likely to engage residents, but is the most costly option for municipalities as a result of the higher collection costs and provision of suitable carts or bins for  temporary household organics storage. It is also the simplest program to manage, fitting into established methods of garbage and recyclable material collection.

In Nova Scotia, municipalities have adopted different approaches to achieve similar goals, and most municipalities have adopted a curbside collection using green carts. More municipalities are implementing such a scheme as it has been shown to be a successful response to the banning of organic material from provincial landfills. Exceptions to this trend are largely in rural areas where the increased costs of collection outweigh the costs of increased promotion and education for backyard composting. As a result (except in the case of Annapolis Royal), those municipalities not operating curbside collections have not been as successful in the diversion of organics from the solid waste stream, due to the limitations of many backyard technologies in the management of such items as meat.

Whitehorse initially adopted the use of biodegradable bags, which has not been entirely successful as supply has been intermittent, leading to occasional shortages. The bags sometimes degrade in storage and create a problem with the management of organic waste for the householder. The preferred solution, in the opinion of the municipal officers, is the adoption of green carts as these are easier for both the householder and the garbage collection service. The advantage of bins or carts is that the collection process can be mechanized, making it quicker and more efficient.

Green bins are the most common receptacle in use. They are also referred to green carts, especially in larger models. This is the approach taken in towns and cities such as Toronto, Markham, Niagara, and Durham in Ontario, Olds in Alberta, Fundy in New Brunswick and Ladysmith in British Columbia.

Program histories

Nova Scotia

In the 1970s, waste management was highly unsustainable and hazardous, with practices such as open burning and illegal dumping in common practice. During the 1980s, because of media attention on waste issues and a landfill crisis (e.g. Halifax took 10 years to find a suitable location for landfill) public opinion began to take exception to this approach leading to a provinc- wide public waste management consultation. The solid waste strategy and subsequent legislation included the banning of organic material from the landfill stream, as well as a comprehensive effort on waste diversion and reduction involving banning materials that could be diverted such as organics and recyclable material, deposits on beverage containers and other management approaches such as new landfill standards (Dec 31, 2005). Many landfills were closed at this time – reducing the total number in the province to 7 (although there are still 25 privately run construction waste landfills in the province).

The solid waste strategy was significantly influenced by the Municipality of Lunenburg, which, in 1991, was the first municipality in North America to instigate a solid waste management review process, and implementing curbside collection in 1993-4. There are strong links between this community and Germany – and people involved in the review had knowledge of the German curbside collection of organic (and other) waste (see the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety for more details); the municipality decided to implement this process. The compost that is created is sold back to residents by the municipalities, which creates another income stream to support the operation of the system.

The scale and comprehensive nature of the Nova Scotia solid waste management policy resulted in a critical mass of knowledge and expertise in waste management, which resulted in significant new economic activity, creating up to 1,200 new jobs. It also resulted in increased interest in composting in the private sector. The pulp and paper industry in the province is now composting wood waste, and McCain's is composting all of its potato peelings in a large scale anaerobic composter12.

The ability to experiment with ideas and techniques designed to increase waste diversion and reduction has led to Nova Scotia becoming a significant centre of consulting and waste engineering companies. Examples of companies that have transferred knowledge from Nova Scotia to national and international markets include Dillon Consulting, the MacDonnell Group, and the Miller Composting Corporation.


In the early 1990s, territorial funding was available to carry out a solid waste management audit (1993-1994). During this period, municipal officials attended a waste management conference where an organic waste management program from PEI was presented involving curbside organic waste collection. The lesson was taken back to Whitehorse. Whitehorse officials decided that they could introduce curbside collection in Whitehorse. Recyclables collection is not cost effective for the municipality as it costs too much to transport material to processing depots.  Consequently, recycling in the community is carried out by the private and non-profit sector, and is based on voluntary deposits at collection depots by residents.

There was initial involvement in the development of the waste management strategy of the now disbanded non-profit called LOTS. Territorial funding supported the waste management strategy development. Federal funding was used to build the compost facility at the landfill. A non-profit organisation runs the composting facility at the landfill. Attempts have been made to create partnerships with private companies to increase the management of waste, but this has currently not been successful. Indeed, private companies have been reluctant to collect organic waste from commercial enterprises, a collection service which the municipality does not provide.

The key to winning council support was the instigation of pilot studies. First, in 2000, interested residents formed a process pilot study. These interested residents were removed from the regular collection stream (Monday to Wednesday) and moved to a Friday collection. Following the success of the pilot, in 2001, an entire neighbourhood was selected as a second pilot study, which included both a willing, and unwilling, resident pool. Despite initial resistance from some residents, the second pilot study was also successful. In 2002, the program then went city-wide. The initial group of residents was selected by using volunteers to undertake a community-based social marketing process. This process involved using residents that had been engaged with the municipality on environmental issues, and were interested in supporting the initiative. These people then spoke with their neighbours and friends in an effort to recruit them for the volunteer pilot study.

The basic operation of the organic waste management process works like this: every other week, alternating with regular garbage pick up, organic waste is collected and transported to a compost facility at the Whitehorse landfill. The waste is collected in bio-degradable bags, which are purchased by residents. There is also a limited program of compostable waste collection at schools in the municipality. A non-profit organisation managing the compost facility sells the compost that is created and uses this to offset the cost of managing the facility.

Roadblocks to attractng commercial enterprises have not been overcome. The municipality has started to collect organics from schools as private enterprises would not provide the service as they already do for regular garbage. There was an attempt to instigate an organics collection at the two MacDonald’s in the city, but although 90% of their waste is compostable and composting would save them a lot of money, the franchise holder did not take up the scheme because one of the restaurants formed part of a Wal Mart and Wal Mart handled the waste for them at that store, meaning cleaning protocols would be different in each of the two premises. This was considered unacceptable.

Other examples of green bin collections

Greater Toronto

In 2002, curbside collection in the Greater Toronto area started in Etobicoke, which acted as phase one of the roll-out of collection services across the metropolitan area. The program was instigated as a result of the closure of the Keele Valley Landfill site in 2002. This meant that Toronto’s waste was then exported to Michigan. At the time, this led to a 400% increase in the cost of garbage disposal13. With 41% of Toronto’s waste being potentially compostable, organics collection was identified as a key component of a waste reduction process14.

Over the next 3 years, the Green Bin Program was rolled out across the metropolitan area. Scarborough began in June 2003 and Toronto, East York and York joined in September 2004. On October 25, 2005, 124,000 single family homes in the North York community came on board, bringing the total to 510,000 single family households. The program does not currently cater for multi-family units such as apartment blocks, although pilots are underway to test the feasibility of collecting organics in such complexes.

Composted material is collected every week, with regular garbage being collected every other week. Compost is placed in green bins that are then left at the curb for collection.


Fundy in New Brunswick adopts a voluntary approach. Curbside residential collection commenced in 2001, using green bins for mechanisation. The key difference in Fundy is that participation in the scheme is voluntary – residents can opt into the program and receive a green bin at their discretion. The program is gaining increased support in the community, with percentage increases in composting and participation in the programme.


Like Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island has adopted a province-wide approach although the scale is perhaps somewhat smaller. Also, like Nova Scotia the approach is part of a comprehensive waste management strategy.


There are many other green bin examples around the country – mostly operating a model of central composting providing a sellable resource and a mechanised collection using green carts of various sizes. Other potentially sustainable uses for organic waste is to use organic waste to generate fuel for power generation. There is a wide range of processing technologies available on the market and the costs associated with the process are comparable with composting, as well as providing benefits in other areas, such as reducing the reliance on fossil fuels for energy production. This alternative, however, further increases the centralisation of organic waste processing and does not provide communities with a source of sustainable compost. The various strands of sustainable development represented by these various approaches would be difficult to compare and analyse.

Strategic Questions

  1. What is the critical threshold that moves the most efficient composting program from the backyard to centralised systems?

  2. Which is more sustainable – composting or using organic waste in biofuels/cogeneration projects?

  3. What is the most efficient collection schedule that combines curbside collections of organic waste, recyclables and garbage while keeping vehicle emission to a minimum?

Resources and References

  1. Composting Council of Canada:
  2. Ontario Ministry of the Environment. 2004. Ontario’s 60% Waste Diversion Goal – A Discussion Paper,
  3. Friesen, B. 2002. Which Methods Work Best? Biocycle, Vol 43 (6), p 29-37 
  4. Lundie, S. and Peters, G.M. 2005. Life cycle assessment of food waste management options, Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol 13 (3), pp275-286 
  5. Björklund A, Dalemo, M. and Sonesson U. 1999. Evaluating a municipal waste management plan using OWARE. Journal of Cleaner Production Vol. 7 pp271–80 
  6. The Nova Scotia GPI Solid Waste-Resource Accounts. 2004. GPI Atlantic,
  7. Ibid. Number of bins based on 50% of qualifying households. The cost to residents was $25, and the municipality payed the rest of the cost, a total of $37. Curbside collection costs based on 11.96 kg organic waste per household per month. 
  8. Whitehorse Star, Jan 24th 2005
  9. Halifax Regional Municipality. 2005. Solid Waste Resource Advisory Committee Minutes September 8, 2005 
  10. GPI, 2004
  11. Bob Kenny, pers. comm. 
  12. City of Toronto. 2002. Going Green in Etobicoke Issue 1, City of Toronto 
  13. Waste Diversion Task Force. 2001. Task Force 2010, City of Toronto 
  14. Arlt, A. 2003. Processing of biowaste to biofuels – comparison of process chains for sewage sludge, organic and woody waste using a systems analysis approach, Karlsruhe: Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe

This is actually the first time I have heard of a green bin program. It's nice to see how larger cities like Toronto has set up such a system although the article/background information supplied did not provide a progress report or any numbers to show performance. Good to see Whitehorse garnered municipal council support - but only after showing the bottom line numbers, which still costs money.

It appears that moral suasion may be an effective policy tool for increasing compost collection and organic waste sorting as part of a comprehensive waste management program; however I don't see any hard evidence of other policies that could be more favourable including incentives. In my town, we need garbage bag stickers, for $2/bag, to access curb side pick up. You can purchase these from A&P grocery stores or other corner stores. Recycling is unlimited and free provided it is in clear bags, and the recyclables are sorted properly. These are picked up on the same day that the other garbage is picked up. Therefore by diverting as much recyclables as you can - you reduce your own costs of accessing curbside pick up for your other garbage. Adding compost bags (green bags) would benefit this further.

In response to Rosanno's comments, it seems that the incentive approach is a positive way to reduce landfill streams. I have a slight disadvantage in that the cities I have lived in previously have not had a good waste management strategy. However, based on the above case studies, it certainly provide many interesting avenues to pursue from an organics waste program perspective.

When considering a centralized organic collection system, transportation would certainly be the key focus to consider when weighing the pros and cons. My first thought would be that a weekly collection schedule for all landfill, recycling and organic waste streams would be the best approach. This would really only be practicable if the organic composting facility, recycling facility and landfill are located close together. I am curious how the collection works though. Do the cities use muliple compartment trucks or just multiple trucks depending on type of waste being collected?

From my experience in a small Northern town with no organic waste separation and only neighbourhood recycling programs, I know that the public participation is very low. It seems only those with a keen interest in the environment readily participate. The other observation I have from my small town (Fort McMurray) is the number of Easterns who have migrated west that come from a province such as Nova Scotia who spend a lot of time telling anyone who will listen about how great the curb-side collection is out east. It seems they people will spend considerable time separating their wastes if they know someone will pick it up for them. When given the option of participating in a neighbourhood scheme, the percentage of participants decreases. Although I have no numbers to illustrate my point, if I extrapolate based on the number of people I know in this category, I would hazard a guess that over 60% of Easterners who used to recycle no longer do. From research done on this subject in Fort Mac, the municipality is considering moving towards curb-side collections.

I agree with Rosanno's comments that the compost systems are good ideas and they can become much better with some refinement. As a resident of Whitehorse I have witnessed the advantages and disadvantages of one of these case studies.

The major advantage I see is the social awareness that has grown in the city around composting. Many residents who currently compost did not know what that meant 8 years ago. Now they deligently place their green box or blue bag at the curbside every second week.

An intelligent decision was made to reduce garbage pick up from every week to every second week and to limit the pick up volume. This encouraged residents to recylce and compost more.

On the other hand, the bins distributed for the compost bin pilot project are very large and cumbersome and are never even half filled for each pick up event. If the resident does not have a bin then the biodegradable bags must be purchased regularly.

I have not heard or read any advertisements for composting in my two years of residency in Whitehorse (except on our garbage/compost pick up schedule). Perhaps to make the Whitehorse system more efficient residents should be educated on the motivation for composting.

Also, the expensive collections system could be halted, instead residents could be provided with smaller bins (easier to carry) which could be emptied at Raven's Recycling (the group organising the composting). Residnts visit Raven's recylcing frequently to drop off their sorted recycling.

Self delivery of composting to Raven's Recycling would step around the fact that Whitehorse might not meet a critical threshold for a curbside compost pick up program.


The positive comments regarding the collection and re-use of green wastes has been enlightening. Metro Vancouver has been mandated by the municipalities of the Lower Mainland of BC to reduce their carbon footprint by changing the method in disposing of solid wastes by creating a green waste program within the Lower Mainland. AS each municipality is directly responsible for the collection of all solid waste materials from both residential and commercial sectors, it has taken considerable cooperation to initiate the construction and subsequent operation of green waste composting facilities where all the organic wastes can be handled (estimated at 50%.

The collection of the green waste component that is presently in the general waste stream may present an initial problem in relationship to the volume of homes and businesses that will have to be serviced. Additionally, the majority of municipalities have been providing individual composting bins to residents for many years for backyard composting. As shown in the Toronto example, there is a significant capital cost in providing curbside containers that will move the organic wastes from the residence to a centralized facility or multi-facilities that are envisioned.

Another key threshold that I see is the collection frequency as many residents use garborators to dispose of the organic portion of their wastes. Which method is more effective? WIth the upgrading of wastewater treatment plants also proposed, the organic portion has been calculated into the criteria for the design of the secondary treatment works.

As the centralization of green waste collection and treatment provides an alternative to landfill disposal or to incineration, the best management of the centralized facility will require provisions for wastewater treatment, odour control and markets for the finished product.

If you were composting in a closed environment could you create a closed water system where wastewater (compost tea) was collected, bottled in old pop bottles and sold as a value-added product? Or it could be used as a fertilizer product in community gardens, municipal gardens, lawns, flowerbeds, etc.

If you build the capability into the system right off the bat it wouldn't drastically increase costs and would reduce the waste stream.

I completely agree with Lisa in that by building the capabilities into the system initially will allow for a more robust program. In terms of the critical threshold for backyard to centralized systems, my initial thought is it becomes a factor of population density - a thread discussed throughout the case study. With a more rural scenario, the costs of a centralized system would be much higher than a backyard program which may have equivalent efficiency levels.

On the other hand, a smaller, more rural population base has advantages that a larger, more urban area have. I have noticed that smaller communities tend to know each other and have a better communication network set up - mainly word of mouth. The real key to a sucessful green waste program isn't the population density but the level of participation. Increasing understanding and the skill set of the general public becomes integral in program success, as does soliciting information from the public.

I think of this in terms of the ingenuity gap figure Ann posted in class - as environmental capital decreases as does social and economic. Conversely, if you were to increase the social capital, I would argue that environmental and economic would begin to increase as well. One way to do that is accessing the social network and engage the community - perhaps more easily done in a less dense community (ha, ha).

I agree Zoe. Another advantage of a lower density population is the lower volume of waste that needs to be dealt with. Maintenance and land use would be significantly less than in a major centre.

I also think smaller communities have a greater buy-in to their community as a whole. They are proud of it, take personal ownership of it and what it does. In a small community the desire to help improve their community is greater than in a larger centre where people tend to live in a place rather than belong to a place. If the topic were presented in the right way, you could get community buy in through these channels as well.

We are also very competetive with nearby communities. The competition aspect may be a tool to use as well.


I wonder how effective it would be to implement a green bin program by divvying up the costs through regular tax payments. Basically I can think of 2 scenarios when the initial capital cost of green bins can be distributed to the residents equally presuming the cost of a medium-sized green bin is ~ $75:
1) The $75 would be divided into 4 separate equal payments (monthly or whatever the proposed tax payment schedule is in a particular city)on top of the existing property taxes;
2) The $75 could be paid initially, which would eliminate the need to add this to your regular taxes; or
3) The intial cost could be in regular payments to the Municipality as a separate account and not added to the property taxes (like a rent to own plan).

This can be implemented through a pilot study led by volunteers. Is it equitable? perhaps not, but I would argue that it is the cost of owning a home or living in a city with a landfill space problem. Cities would need to look at opportunity costs and this can be significant especially in a large urban setting with little available landfill space (like Zoe said it's likely more difficult to implement a green bin program in a city with lots of room in their landfill).

Another scenario can be the purchase of compost (good ones) from the residents themselves. While it may be little profit, it can be an additional source of income and empowerment (through rewards) for the residents.

I think the two major setbacks for getting people involved in composting are the following:

1- Is appealing to resident's financial side?

To appeal to the financial side as Rosanno and Zoe eluded to there can be financial incentives such as those in Port Hope where residents who lessen the volume of their garbage save money. This potentail saving encourages residents to compost.

2- Is the composting service readily available to residents?

As Lisa mentioned composting programs cannot be uniform. These need to be implemented through dynamic and adaptive methods to allow for each city's context (espeacilly in refernce to rural living versus urban living).

There are three levels of possible service that I see

1- Backyard composting (encourage through garbage disposal fees and marketing)
2- Central compost drop off area (such As Raven's Recycling in Whitehorse)
3-Door to door pick up of compost (as in Etobicoke)


I seem to be the rural representation for the group, so I would like to point out the difficulties from our perspective. Because of our small population setting up the infrastructure and resources for a program like this would be not cost effective. The small tax base does not allow for the staff to collect waste and maintain a program like this. We only have drink container and paper recylcing in our community. The emissions necessary to transport waste products to a larger centre would cancel out many of the benefits. A program in a rural area might involve education and resources for a backyard or small neighborhood composting program.


The collection of green waste has a considerable advantge over regular household waste as it can be turned into a very valuable commodity. Quality compost is very desirable both for backyard gardeners and larger industrial-sized nurseries and greenhouses. There must be some accounting for the money that the sale of the compost (after processing, marketing and distributing) would bring in to help offset the up-front costs of the green bins, collection process and infrastructure costs for the central compost stations. Lisa also mentioned the potential to capture the leachate coming off the coposting pile as "compost tea" and bottling this product for sale. If we offered a discount for participating households to purchase the final products of their green bins, that may encourage greater participation in the program.

Don Harrison

I agree with Don's comments - one of the most effective ways to encourage consensus is to demonstrate the over-all benefits to an activity - in this case composting.

Interestingly, and this can also apply to potential barriers we've discussed, I did some information gathering on the economic benefits and found a report summarizing literature on the maturity of compost and the implications from a feasibility and economic perspective. The report was published by the Department of Environment and Labour in Nova Scotia (2001) and addressed a gap in current guidelines on when mature compost is able to be sold. The report indicated that a critical factor of oxygen availability in compost to be used in the assessment of compost maturity has not been considered to date in current guidelines. The implications of this are adverse environmental affects on the growth of vegetation and soil characteristics - both negatively affecting a key sector for the demand of compost - agriculture. There solution was to consider oxygen content but initial calculations showed that the residence time in the composting facility would have to increase - further affecting available space to continue to accept more organic wastes.

This demonstrated to me the intracies of the problem on hand and how difficult is must be to truly arrive at a positive solution for everyone. It again provides weight to the necessity to encourage strong social participation and engagement in a process such as this - a common theme I am reading throughout all the postings to date.


The exmples for composting, whether it be backyard programs or centralized facilities had one common goal; the removal of the organic wastes from the solid waste stream that was being disposed of through landfilling. Issues were identified regarding the viability of centralized composting due to climate, collection, size of service community and peoples' attitude towards the suggested methods.

Use of cogeneration would identify another series of issues associated with the collection, treatment, location of the centralized facility and ability to market the power from the disposal process. Using the organic wastes to create biofuels would have similar issues as the cogeneration and composting in that the collection system would be similar, location of a facility to produce the biofuels may present the issue of "not in my backyard" and marketability of the final product.

The issue of sustainability can be dealt with through the economic, social and environmental aspects. Composting has been promoted for several decades as an economic means of removing the organic wastes portion from the solid waste stream. Cogeneration has been initiated in many jurisdictions (e.g., Vancouver) where a small percentage of the wastes are diverted from landfilling to the cogeneration facility. Initially, marketing of the surplus generated steam presented a problem and an additional capital outlay was required to add a steam turbine for power generation.
Additional issues with cogeneration was the int cost of building and operating the facility (currently estimated at 400 million dollars per facility -2007.

Socially, the installation of a cogeneration facility has been opposed by the local community through their concerns of "not in my backyard". the process of securing a site and getting the necessary authorizations is a lengthy process. Environmentally, there is still a problem with the residues (bottom ash) as it normally contains metals, etc. as the organic portion is not separated from the overall waste stream.

Which is more sustainable is a matter of choice. The cost of building and operating a composting facility is significantly less than a cogeneration facility. Public reaction to the composting facility can be lessened through locating within an industrial area rather than in the residential.

Ideally, the operation of a combination of composting and cogeneration facilities that remove 100% of the solid waste stream from the landfill would be more sustainable and more cost-effective.

Jim brought up many excellent points, I think that his overall message forces us to consider the positives and negatives involved directly in composting versus biofuels and co generation. For a true vision of sustainability we should step back from this question a bit more.

The use of compost materials for biofuels is an option that deserves more attention. Currently we are using up precious farm land not for food crops but for biofuel crops. This is driving up food costs around the world. Why are we growing this material when we have a large source of it already available to us (and even partially processed for end use). Something has to be done with compost material, why not make use of it from cradle to grave?

Already biofuels have been used as sole fuel sources in cars, trains and planes (a 747 plane flew from London to Amsterdam TODAY!!! In addition, biofuel has been recognized as a better solvent than standard diesel, as it 'cleans' the engine, loosening build up of deposits in the fuel lines.

Yet,location, time and space must be considered for each situation. If the compost is produced in a remote area the travel to and from a co generation center might not result in a benficial use of energy, time and money.

I seem to be stuck on this rural thing, but I will run with it. I think you will find that in smaller communities the idea of a local small-scale biofuel plant would be really exciting. There is space to set up a plant away from people and still provide jobs and income for small communities. They could then market the biofuel immediately in the area. People would support their own biofule plant resulting in environmental and economic benefits for the area.


It seem to me that one of the themes in your discussion so far has been the relative merits of centralised vs personal (ie backyard) systems and differences between low density small populations and high density urban populations.

This has ramifications in other areas of development, which type of living has most to offer sustainable development do you think? The efficiencies of complex urban systems, or the mutually supported independence of rural living?

"I promise its the last one. I just wanted to make note that the small rural communities produce the food that makes high density living possible in cities. Okay, I'm done :)"

This is actually an excellent point, and one I was going to bring up. In sustainability planning the idea of a City-Region is very popular. The idea being just this - that treating the urban and rural separately is a form of siloisation, and this as we all now leads to unsustainable practices. The City-Region idea is of course urban centric and perceived the rural area as a service place to support the city. However there is reciprocal benefits - the economy of the city also supports the viability of the rural area.

Therefore planning must take into account the needs and requirements of BOTH places together.

This concept works well when there is a close physical connection from the urban centres to agricultural areas nearby. In Victoria, there is plenty of exposure for city-dwellers to see how local, small-scale farming areas contribute to their food supply. They have the opportunity to visit the farms on the Saanich Peninsula and buy direct from them. They can also make the connection at the plethora of local farmer's markets that operate from spring thru to fall. It is a bit harder to make this connection in a larger urban area like Vancouver or Toronto but the local-food idea is a trend that is gaining momentum. Awareness of the connection breaks down the silos between our food sources and the consumer. Incorporating our green wastes into helping local food producers improve their crops can only help to make even stronger connections.

Don Harrison


In response to Chris' comments, I find that the comparison of urban to rural systems is a misnomer. The population base of a rural community cannot support a centralized system of collection which results in the higher carbon footprint per individual for the collection and disposal of the solid waste stream. However, it also allows for a more robust composting program whereby all organic wastes can be re-used and/or recycled within the homeowner's property.
Having lived in rural communities in BC and operating an orchard, it was our policy to minimize the amount of wastes that we generated, separated all reusable items and recycle. Additionally, the disposal of all wastes was done on the most infrequent basis to minimize our carbon footprint.
Lisa was correct in adding the social aspect to the rural community as the majority of organic wastes would be recycled through composting, either on your land or that of your neighbours.

In regards to the urban aspect, centralized recycling programs were developed to encourage the reduction of wastes generated. However, these programs have developed into an easier means of disposing of wastes while feeeling good that you are helping the environment. As Louise stated today, many of the products cannot be re-used or recycled (e.g. glass) and large open spaces are now used to store this material until markets are more favourable or alternate uses are developed.

Orlando gave me an article from the Abbotsford News that demonstrates the contraversy with the disposal of the solid waste component in the Lower Mainland of BC. While Metro Vancouver wants to build waste to energy facilities to dispose of the wastes and generate power, Abbotsford is opposed due to the implications of increased GHG emissions.
The benefits include lower energy consumption, reduced land use for disposal and economic wellbeing of the communities through power generation. If the plan is defeated, the majority of the wastes will be transported to landfills in the interior of BC or USA.

If agreement is not reached between the communities, the social network is placed at risk, environmental impact may be increased to other communities including rural ones and the economic impact will be detrimental to the homeowner due to the increased disposal costs.


"Which type of living has most to offer sustainable development do you think? The efficiencies of complex urban systems, or the mutually supported independence of rural living?"

The response to Chris' inquiry is difficult to answer given the differences in population densities and other attributes between a rural area in Saskatchewan or one in Ontario. For example the "boundary" that separates rural areas to urban areas in Southern Ontario is becoming unclear as urban sprawl occurs quickly. This, of course, only reinforces the need to add an organic waste collection program into a comprehensive waste management system. So in larger areas where rural areas are somewhat close to urban areas, then why can't we develop or construct a compost-only landfill for biodiesel near a rural area where the tax base can increase and the rural residents benefit (as Lisa stated, a biodiesel plant in a rural area would increase social capital for the rural residents).

To support everyone's points so far, a comprehensive waste program will not work in a rural setting because of the lesser dense population. Conversely, there is increase social capital in a rural setting because relationships are much "closer".


I would say that a local (backyard) composting program would work better because, frankly, there is more space for rural residents to compost. This is not possible in an urban location. Have you seen the size of the backyards in newer homes? :)

Therefore to bring it back to Chris' question, I would say that an urban (centralized) system would be more sustainable because there will be probably more support in a door-to-door service (as Nicole stated) in a larger setting (as Etobicoke) because waste production is larger (due to a denser population) and less carbon footprint (as Jim stated). A central drop-off location may work, but people will likely just drive to the location (in their massive V8 trucks) and emit more GHG emissions than a municipal truck picking up the green bins. Unless of course more central-drop off locations are installed within walking distance; at this point a cost-benefit analysis would be required.

A local system would be "equally" sustainable in a rural setting because there is backyard space. So people just walk to their backyard and get rid of it (the waste program in a particular urban location, however, must discourage the organic waste going into the regular garbage, which can be discouraged by requiring garbage tags as I mentioned in my first posting).


I read a couple articles that are relevant to our case studies. I included the links - copy them into Word and the hyperlink should work. They claim in one article that the cost of municpal recycling programs rarely come close to recovering the collection and processing costs. One exception, though, was "largely near ports in dense urban areas that charge high fees for landfill disposal and enjoy good market conditions for the sale of recyclables." This sounds a lot like Vancouver to me.

I still think if you are in a rural area, it is a lot easier to take care of your own green waste by composting it yourself. They don't have the economies of scale to make a logistically complex system viable. Those enjoying the simple life should be more able to resort to simpler solutions.…

Don Harrison

We have discussed the juxtaposition between rural resident attitudes and potential support for a green waste program. I would like to heat things up a bit and discuss the role of cultural differences and success of green waste programs.

I can assure you that immigrants and those that have recently moved into a country of location will likely not have the same sense of ownership and place as the natives or permanent residents. Consequently, it is expected that there may be less support because of this.

I also wonder what their preconceived notions are regarding recycling programs and composting programs if they come from a place where these types of programs never existed.

I agree that different cultures will react differently to environmetnal initiatives. This relates not only to immigrants but also different age groups, different belief systems and different historical references. I think the word that can include all of these is "Context". It is therefore essential for an environmtnal initative be marketed towards a wide variety of contexts.


I touched a little bit on how the boundaries/buffers between large urban areas and rural areas are diminishing, which means the ability to provide comprehensive waste management pick-ups offered by urban municipalities can be extended to the nearby rural municipality. This implies that a person/group that can bridge the gap between the different municipalities would be integral to the success of such a co-op green waste program. A co-op compost dump shared by both "urbanites" and rural residents will decrease costs of implementation and maintenance, if this was a concern.

Another node is required for bridging the residents and also the municipal officials with respect to education about green wastes. This will garner support from both stakeholders and identify common concerns. Stakeholders can then formulate solutions. Once implemented, as a pilot project (like Whitehorse's case), then the same node can ensure that the results are communicated to all stakeholders that otherwise would not have been able to communicate together.

Nodes play an important role specially if we want a culture change within our society. There is need to educate our stakeholders specially our youth.

I feel that this conversations is getting a bit cyclical. My understanding of what we are generally agreeing on is that one blanket solution cannot be applied to all cultures and areas. In general, we seem belive the following is the most efficient method for dealing with compost and recyclabes in different sized communities:

Small/Rural Communites (Estevan, as Lisa was describing)
Individuals are responsible for their own composting or they can self organise into sharing that responsibility with their close neighbors.

Medium Communities(Whitehorse)
A centralized community drop off location.

Large/Urban Communities (the densely populated areas of Vancouver)
Recyclable and compost collection.

Encouragement should be given to ensure individuals are making use of these services. This can be done through charging extra for each bag of garbage, refunds on recylables, payment for compost etc.

Can you suggest other ways to provide encouragement across all cultural boundaries?


I think that we can all agree with Nicole's summary that one solution does not fit all applications.

Where we have not touched on is the identification of associated problems with composting of green wastes (e.g., odour, effluent, rodents). When Metro Vancouver began the process of sellecting sites, choosing a methodology and describing the possible negatives of the process, we had to examine the locations in relationship to adjacent land use criteria. WOuld it be appropriate to site a centralized composting facility in a residential area, near a commercial centre or where the transportation of the wastes would increase the carbon footprint that we were trying to reduce.

In regards to the odours associated with composting, we had experience with the composting of mushroom manure operations. Large scale composting generally under a covered but open area. If located in a semi-rural area, odours occurred and carried significant distances. When the process was upgraded to fully enclosed facilities with BACT requirements, the number of odour complaints were reduced significantly (e.g., 2000 vs. 10 per year).

The second area that we have had to examine is the wastewater generated. As Lisa stated this wastewater can be considered a commodity due to it high nutrient value. However, the large volume that is expected to be generated from several proposed operations will require a marketing plan and alternately, a treatment plan if the markets are too small.

We are all aware of the "not in my backyard" approach that most municipalities and individuals take when dealing with waste materials. Orlando gave me an article earlier this week dealing with the proposed waste to energy facilities that will be part of the overall management plan to handle the solid waste stream of the Lower Mainland of BC. Abbotsford does not want us to build any of these facilities; however they do not provide any alternatives. Sensitive issue for most municipalities.

Siting of the individual composting facilities requires easy access to the major routes within the lower mainland. this means finding suitable locations within industrial parks whereby several adjacent municipalities can be serviced.

Another aspect that was discussed in the case study was the financial implications of getting the necessary funding to build and operate these facilities. Early composting facilities in the lower mainland were mainly started by the private sector. None are currently in operation due to the lack of adequate funding from the various levels of government. This means that government will have to provide the funding to both construct and operate each of these facilities.

I know that I have been long-winded in my summation of the composting aspect of solid waste management but it is a complex subject that requires examination of many different areas. I am interested in how each of you could forsee the operation of similar facilities in your community. What size would the facility be? how would it be funded? Who would provide the operating capital?

Excellent thoughts Jim and Nicole. To pick up the thread based on Jim's 'gaps', run-off and odours, and aesthetics I would argue are definitely the key barriers to fully implement such a facility from a social (and ecological) perspective. I say mainly social because I'm not sure what the environmental concerns are with odours (for example). However, there are certainly designs for capture of the gases and water run-off that, if built into the design, could possibly eliminate both those things. Of course, I would live to cite another case study of example of this being but don't have a reference on hand - I commitment to doing this tonight. It supports a recommendation in my thesis however in that building these aspects into design prior to implementation is extremely cost effective over the long run. That brings it around to cost. I was reflecting that it's always costs that become the make-or-break it decision - a truly sustainable way of decision-making or business? I know they have to be in line but if by spending the money up front (via tax incentives, borrowing from the bank, local investments, fundraisers) it won't be more sustainable in the long-run. With a clear cost-benefit analysis, this could be an easy thing to prove. It's how to put a price on the social component that is difficult.

I have the 'benefit' (???) of living in Fort McMurray - a very affluent (though dysfunctional) community. In terms of money, especially for something like this, if there was strong leadership and a strong network developed to implement this, I would wager that the industry companies (i.e., oil sands companies) would donate money for this. They have done this for other community projects such as a performing arts theatre and environmental concerns come to the forefront of people's minds, this could be an efficient way of obtaining money for such an operation. Of course there's more to it than that such as long-term contracts for management and collection of the program but if developing a sustainable composting operation has a huge up-front cost, my community of Fort Mac has demonstrated in the past that they will overcome.

However, I point out that we are different from other communities and I see that method may not be effective in smaller communities will little to no industry or larger communities with spread out and diverse industry. Has anyone had similar experiences?


One point I took away from Louise's talk that relates to our case study is the degree of pent-up public willingness to act. They want to do what they can to make a difference in their local environment, just are not educated enough in the isuues. I think that most would be suprised to know that the Blue Box program is not making much of a difference. Their intentions are good, just they don't know where to focus their eneries.

The municipality where I live offers a program (unfortunately for a fee) where they will come to a homeowner's proerty and do an audit of their landscaping and composting activities. The prime driver in this is the conservation of water, though the reduction of green yard waste collected by the municipality is also a goal. If more information like this were made available, then the increased education level of the citizens would lead to more innovations. The old "teach a man to fish argument" comes into play. (I suppose that should be "teach a woman to fish" as well but having gone fishing with my wife once, the image is too disheartening).

Don Harrison

I agree with Don that there should be an easy and upfront way of accessing information regarding our garbage break down, carbon footprints etc. If people really knew how much of their waste is compostable and how much landfill space they are taking up with their current habits they would be more likely to consider other options.

In addition, the removal of greenwaste from the garbage stream would help decrease landfill expansion and maintenance costs. This additional budget could be allocated to alternate waste reduction strategies.


OK, I am going to try and apply some of the lecture material to this debate. Imagine if you will a community that has this green waste problem and starts to organize itself for their mutual benefit. For example, if a group of serious gardners get together in their neighbourhood to teach and help other homeowners to start backyard composting. These other people may or may not want the compost product, however, they could donate or possibly sell their compost to the other gardners or the municipality. It could then be used for any community garden projects or to help out the local parks department: this would reduce their costs for buying compost commercially and could provide tax relief (ok, it wouldn't be much but who knows what the futures market holds in store for good compost?)They could engage the local high-school to help organize the distribution and possible sales of the compost. The students could get some credits for community involvement and also learn small business skills.

The process, over time, would lead up the graph that Ann showed of moving from engagement to cooperation towrds a shared community future. There would be a sense of accomplishment from turning waste produced going outside the community to a full-cycle conversion within the community that enriches local ecosystems. Bridging and bonding network ties would be built that, once in place, could be used to help out in other community issues.
Don Harrison

I think involving youth is an excellent way to increase social capital. As Chris mentioned in his lecture, when you get to school age kids you get to their families as well. It could also be a fund raising opportunity for local community groups and sports teams. Poeple would participate simply to support the community.

I think is would be intersting to tie the project to green spaces and public areas. Compost could be used there to enhance these areas and people might participate to improve their local community.

You could also market this idea through partnering with programs like "Communities in Bloom" or "Green Streets" who actually send commitees around to judge communities and present awards for aesthetics and environmental initiatives.

It is important to understand your end use in the beginning. To assess the type of facility, pick up times, end use, etc. you would also need to consider the make-up (cultural, zoning, residential vs. agriculture) prior to engaging the community. The Composting Council of Canada provided some excellent information in terms of engaging the community. You could develop a map of the types and estimated percentages of green waste in the community to understand what the efficiencies might be [1].

You also need to establish the values of the community. For example, if green space (another thing we've identified as being critical to a sustainable community) is important, perhaps there is a way of building those values in. Using our thesis results - in particular Lisa's thesis - and knowing what some of the deficiencies of a composting facility (namely leachate), you could design a facility that empties the leachate into a wetlands that uses natural vegetation for uptake. If big enough spatially (and clearly not practical in a built-up urban area) an educational component could easily be incorporated through the use of boardwalks, signs, and eventually, development of natural conservation area if wildlife begin to populate it. If designed well, it could also incorporate water recycling for the compost, a necessary ingredient to facilitate decomposition [2, 3].

1. Composting Council of Canada. (2002) Make Magic Happen in Your Community. Accessed from
2. Pichtel, J. (2005) Waste Management Practices: Municipal, Hazardous and Industrial. CRC Press: London, UK.
3. British Columbia Ministry of Agriculure, Food and Fisheries. (n.d.) Site Selection for Composting. Accessed from

I realize this is a bit off topic, but I would like to pick your brains on Royal Roads. It is my understanding that RRU gets their compost removed to an off campus area. Does anyone know where and why the ample garden area is not used to compost? It seems that keeping the compost on campus would benefit the gardens greatly.


It was interesting to read everyone's thoughts so far. Thank you because I have learnt quite a bit. To add to Don's comments about possibly using green compost as a commodity where farmers can sell or donate excess/unwanted compost to other farmers, I wondered how other non-residential members of our community can also benefit. In particular, industries/commercial enterprises can benefit from additional compost as an organic layer for remediating disturbed sites.

Mines, for example, or aggregate pits have bare ground that have been disturbed through resource extraction. When a mine closes, it is sometimes difficult to find an organic soil layer for reseeding and revegetation. Consequently, this is an opportunity for "composters" to establish a mutualistic relationship. This can build morale and overall increase social (partnership in the community), economic (monies from selling/purchasing of compost), and environmental (remediation of disturbed sites) capital.

I like that idea Rosanno. I do reclamation work on open pit coal mine sites, and even when the topsoil layer is returned, the soil is degraded and of a low quality. The resulting survival rates on planting projects is relatively low. A partnership with mining companies to process and use green waste in reclaim areas would be a rather neat and elegant solution in more remote, resource based areas. I don't know if you could get the companies to buy in, but it would be an interesting experiment.

To build upon that as well, I know that reclamation processes for large mine sites - especially those with high muskeg content and low mineral content are not well established. When reclamation soil stockpiles are expected to site dormant for up to 20 years, the ability to access another resource in the event the quality is low would be useful. However, I know in Alberta that to receive a certificate of reclamation you need to show you've use original soil types that match the ecophase for that area. Sadly, we all look for that badge at the end of the day. I think this route would trigger policy changes and that could get messy.

Another end us, similar to the reclamation or use in other industries, is the potential to use the compost material for building back slopes and encouraging vegetation growth in areas of high erosion. This would be (or could be) a large component to municipal or provincial infrastructure needs [1].

1. Composting Council of Canada (n.d.) 25 Questions and Answers About Composting. Accessed from

I think we are on the right tack, use the compost for other purposes (some of which might cover any costs associated with composting such as bins, collection etc.)
Resources Recycling Systems Inc. wrote an article which discusses some uses for compost( The summary is that compost can be used for:

•Storm water runoff filtration;
•Control of plant disease pathogens;
•Erosion control on steep banks;
•Muck layer for wetlands restoration;
•Rehabilitation of infertile brownfields; and
•Biofilter material for odor control.


I liked Rosano's scenario on the difficulty that mines may have finding suitable quantities of organic material for the rehabitation of their mine waste piles and/or sites. Metro Vancouver has been involved in a program to provide sanitary sewage sludge (nutrifor) to such operations as an organic layer for anchoring vegetation. As it becomes a product rather than a waste from the WWTP's, it has a greater value in being used for this application than having to either landfill or incinerate it.

Jim,I like your example of turning a waste into a resource. Is nutrifor sold? If so how much is it worth? Are teher any pathogens or bacteria remaining in the sludge which could potentially cause health issues?

This also makes me agriculture land which has been over used. This nutrient dificiency environment results in a lack of growing potential. If these "wastes" are added and they re-invigorate the soil quality more food can be grown. This will be a useful souce of nutrients for future food production.