In nature, nothing is wasted or thrown away.
While there is nothing natural about urban living, composting our organic waste mimics natural processes carried out by insects, worms and micro-organisms to decompose dead plants and return valuable nutrients back to the earth. Importantly for how we live now, composting also reduces waste sent to landfills, methane greenhouse gas emissions and the need for synthetic chemical fertilizers. Fully composted organic waste is a rich, natural fertilizer that helps create beautiful gardens.
If you live in Montreal, you might have heard the recent announcement that by 2016 we’ll have four City-run composting facilities. That’s great and timely news. In Canada, organic waste makes up the largest component of solid household waste, at around 50% (www.crcresearch.org). This means that if the average person composted all of their organic waste, up to half of the garbage that goes into landfills could be diverted.
While we’re not close to 100% participation in composting, some provinces are doing very well. In 2011, an average of 61% of Canadian households composted their kitchen and garden waste. During that year, provincial composting varied widely, from highs of 96% in Prince Edward Island and 94% in Nova Scotia to lows of 43% in Newfoundland and Labrador and 42% in Quebec. (Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).
At the provincial level in Quebec and other provinces, clearly there’s room for improvement. In the City of Montreal the statistics are equally dismal. Every Montrealer produces approximately 514 kg of organic waste each year or which only 11% is composted. (CBC News)
Part of the problem has been that Montreal lags almost ten years behind other major Canadian cities and sits below the national average when it comes to curbside organic waste collection and composting. For example, Toronto has been collecting organic waste from single-family households since 2005 and expanded its program to apartment buildings and condos in 2008. By 2011 71% of households in Toronto had access to curbside collection, compared with 30% in Montreal. (Source: Mustapha, Iman. Composting by households in Canada. Statistics Canada. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, EnviroStats (2011, vol. 7, no. 1)).
While waiting for the City to institute a curbside collection program, some Montrealers pay for weekly pick-up services from organizations such as Compost Montreal. They’ll give you back a portion of the composted soil later in the year from a pile like this:
(Source: Compost Montreal)
But, given the lack of City services related to composting, you’re not alone if your garbage looks like this when it goes out to the curb:
(Source: CBC News)
If you have a backyard, you don’t have to wait for 2016 or hire a service. You can start you own backyard composter. Choose an outdoor compost bin and put it in a location that is easily accessible, and has good drainage. It can still be in amongst other plants and bushes, as long as it’s not entirely shaded the whole day.
Composter iavailable from Galerie CO (Source: Garden Trading via Galerie CO)
Collect your organic matter, which includes cut grass, leaves, straw, hair, paper, vegetable and fruit cuttings, egg shells. It does not include fish, meat, bones or dairy products.
Dos and don’ts of composting (Source: http://www.stopfoodwaste.ie)
To prevent fruit flies and other pests, it’s a good idea to keep a pile of cut grass, garden clippings or peat moss to sprinkle over top each time you add organic waste.
Depending on the size and style of your composter, you will need to rotate the organic matter. This can be done with a pitch fork or a shovel.
The amount of time it takes your compost pile to produce finished compost will depend on the material you add and the effort you put in. A compost pile that that is turned often and receives a balance between “brown” and “green” waste materials will decompose faster than one that is not maintained or is tilted too heavily in favour of one particular kind of waste material. Green vs. brown organic waste (Source: http://www.yellowknife.ca)
So, be patient and be kind to your compost and it will reward you with your very own ‘black gold’.
Finished compost (Source: waystogogreen.com)
Try it at home. And if you’re in Montreal, encourage the City to keep its word so we all have access to widespread composting in the next couple of years. Meeting its stated goal of composting 60% of Montreal’s organic waste once the new facilities are up and running would put Montreal back in the pack when it comes to urban composting and is something to be celebrated.
Do you have any composting tips? We’d love to hear about your experiences and how you’ve reduced your own landfill contribution. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter @GalerieCO.