With accelerating loss of top soil and agriculture space to development, backyard gardens and urban growing spaces are vital to food sovereignty and security. Mitigating landfill emissions from food waste makes composting an accessible and important tool for everyday conservation and climate action.
The Region of Waterloo has a commitment to reducing local greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2030. The region has a composting and green bin program so that households can divert organic waste out of landfills for use in home gardens and growing projects.
Green bins collect organic waste and can accommodate a surprising number of waste items—for example, both cat litter and cup liquids, such as cooking oil can go into the green bin, as can hair, nail clippings, and house plants.
The Region collects green bin waste every week alongside recycling, although the program is limited to homeowners and people who manage collection themselves rather than through their apartment buildings. Residents of multi-unit buildings can compost but must check their lease agreement for their building or their bylaws for the building or condominium. The Region also recommends having a backyard composter if you have space as it gives you direct access to the composting process.
Residents can pick green bins up free-of-charge at the Waterloo or Cambridge waste management site and use them to dispose of any organic matter in the Green Bin and leave it on the curb for pickup alongside trash. The green bin contents are shipped to an indoor organic waste processor in Guelph where inorganic and organic materials are sorted, then broken down into pre-existing compost to quickstart the composting process.
Then, all material is placed into climate controlled tunnels and moisture is added as necessary. It takes up to eight weeks for the waste to become useable compost and then is tested to be sure it meets Provincial standards before being sold or redistributed to Regional residents.
Composting plant and animal matter through aerobic—oxygen producing—processes reduces methane production as the micro organisms that create methane cannot live in an oxygen rich environment. Sending organic waste to the landfill, however, produces roughly 23 per cent of Canada’s methane emissions yearly.
The process works best with a mix of different kinds of material and Waterloo Region’s Green Bin site recommends using old newspaper or egg cartons as a liner to reduce moisture build-up in the bin. Regular use of the Green Bin not only keeps organic material from landfills, it reduces the overall waste a household generates and leads to fewer garbage bags on the curb every two weeks.
Residents dispose of food and other biodegradable matter in paper or bags labeled as biodegradable. The Region’s Waste Whiz app is a handy tool with information on what can go into the bin, how to prepare it, and the pick-up schedules for trash, recycling, and the Green Bin.
Come garden preparation time in the spring, the Region of Waterloo gives away the processed compost to use fr to grow more local food in a climate resilient and safe cycle where nothing goes to waste.