The haste to handle waste

Saving the world one banana peel at a time may seem like a long, slow journey.

Saving the world one banana peel at a time may seem like a long, slow journey.

But in Sylvan Lake, a seven-month kitchen waste/compost pilot project diverted about 100 tonnes of material that normally would have ended up in the landfill.

That was on top of the 600 tonnes of yard waste collected and taken to a compost facility in Penhold.

Now town council has permanently adopted the program.

And Sylvan Lake is not alone.

In Spruce Grove, an omnibus recycling program, including weekly kitchen waste compost pickup, has meant a dramatic increase in the amount of waste diverted from the landfill.

In 2006, the year before the comprehensive program was introduced in the city of about 25,000 people, 26.8 per cent of household waste was diverted. By 2009, more than 40 per cent of Spruce Grove’s household waste was diverted to recycling programs.

Red Deer was once a leader in recycling, and its waste management facility has drawn interest from afar for its innovative methods and design.

But in the big picture, we have fallen behind.

The city website offers tips on how to “minimize the waste from your home,” including the suggestion that you buy a backyard compost unit to handle food and organic waste.

But not everyone has the desire to home compost, the need for the gardening product created by the process, nor the room to set up a compost unit. Where, for example, would apartment dwellers set up a composter, and what would they do with the product? (If you’re interested in setting up your own compost station, Alberta Environment offers a backyard composter guidebook.)

According to the Compost Council of Canada, the growth in centralized composting facilities in the nation has been most noticeable in Alberta, where 68 facilities were added in the decade after 1996.

And certainly Red Deer’s yard waste pickup and compost program is part of that growth — but it is not enough, because it does not include kitchen waste.

There are more than 80 curbside compost pickup programs in Canadian municipalities, and most of them include kitchen waste.

In Guelph, Ont., waste is sorted into three bags for curbside pickup: green for organics, blue for recycling and clear for waste destined for the landfill. (Never mind that they take all plastic numbers and other items not on Red Deer’s recycle list.)

The City of Halifax offers a comprehensive green cart pickup service every second week. (And that city’s plastic collection even includes all plastic bags and packaging for such things as dry cleaning.)

Expansion of Red Deer’s recycling program is overdue, but change is on the horizon.

The City of Red Deer’s new Waste Management Master Plan is expected to be unveiled next year.

It needs to include plans for kitchen waste pickup as part of its compost program, as well as an expanded recycle list.

John Stewart is the Advocate’s managing editor.