July 17, 2017 6:59 pm
Updated: July 18, 2017 2:33 pm

Calgary home to biggest-of-its-kind composting facility in Canada

WATCH: Composting in Calgary’s southwest is part of the push to get the whole city on the green bin program by October 2017. Carolyn Kury de Castillo was allowed in for a tour of the new composting facility that opens on Tuesday.

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Construction of the 521,000-square-foot Calgary composting facility started in fall 2015 at a cost of $143 million and now it’s ready to take on all of Calgary’s food and yard waste from single-family homes.

“The pilot that we operated for the last five years has shown us that there is great support for this program,”  said Philippa Wagner, green cart implementation leader with the City of Calgary.

“There has been 89 per cent support from those residents and we’ve been able to reduce the waste to landfill by about half.”

The facility is located near Stoney Trail south of 114 Ave. S.E.

READ MORE: What you need to know about green cart collection in Calgary

On Monday, Wagner led a tour of the facility, which is the size of about eight football fields. It takes about 60 days to turn food and yard waste from the green cart program into compost.

Green cart collection begins in southwest Calgary the week of July 17, 2017.

Handout from the City of Calgary

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First, trucks drop off material where it is shredded to a proper size. Then the material is loaded inside one of the 18 massive composting vessels, where it cycles through a warm-up, pasteurization, active composting and cool-down.

The difference from a backyard composter is the heat. The material must maintain a temperature of at least 55 C for three days to kill any harmful bacteria found in meat and pet waste.

The material also goes through a screening process, during which non-compostable items like plastics and rocks are removed.

After that, the compost is ready to be sold to local farms and landscapers to help offset some of the cost of running the program. But most of the price of composting will come from the $6.50 green cart monthly fee.

WATCH: Calgary’s new green cart program begins in southwest.

READ MORE: Calgary councillors delay green cart composting fees until 2018

“We also will have a portion, about five per cent, of that compost returned to the city and that compost will be donated to community gardens,” Wagner said. “And it will also be given away to residents for free starting in 2018.”

The city hopes to divert half of the amount of waste that would have gone into a landfill once composting becomes the new normal behaviour.

“Like recycling: everybody recycles and so people will learn to change their habits in their kitchen and collect the food and yard waste separately.”

So far, the facility is only meant to handle Calgary’s compost. Once it’s up and running, the city will assess if it will be possible to take on more from surrounding communities.

The pilot program material was taken to a private facility near Strathmore.

The green cart program starts this week in southwest Calgary and expands to northwest Calgary in mid-August. Northeast Calgary will get green carts in September 2017 and the southeast will be on board by October.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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