Winnipeg report recommends city-wide composting program after successful pilot

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Winnipeg report recommends city-wide composting program after successful pilot
A report released by Winnipeg’s Public Service recommends that a green cart composting program be approved for the city. Rosanna Hempel reports – Sep 1, 2023

Three years after launching a pilot project, the City of Winnipeg is inching closer to setting up a city-wide, curbside composting program after a report on the pilot came back with positive feedback from residents. However, it could take years more before Winnipeggers roll out a green cart under a permanent program.

As an avid gardener, Linda Zhou harvests everything from corn and potatoes to tomatoes this time of year, but she doesn’t want food scraps to end up in the dump.

“It’s a low-hanging fruit for me … to reduce our emissions and kind of be more climate resilient,” she said.

Zhou participated in the city’s pilot composting program, which ran for two years from 2020 until last September.

The curbside pickup each week was also popular with neighbours in Linden Woods, Zhou told Global News Friday.

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“A few of them saying they really wish the city will keep doing it because they realize how much the waste they can divert from the landfill, so it’s really great,” she said.

A public service report released Friday proposes the city implement a similar program for single-family homes starting in 2030 — a timeline city councillor Brian Mayes finds troubling.

“We’re behind other cities on this,” Mayes told reporters at city hall on Friday.

“I would like to get going and get this. Like, let’s not take two years or three years to talk. Let’s take a year or so and … get some requests for information out there and get a plan.”

Mayes, who chairs the city’s water, waste and environment committee, expects a few of the recommendations to be heavily debated at city hall, including the cost.

If the report passes as is, home owners would begin paying an extra $8/year for garbage collection starting next July to get funds kickstarted for the 120-litre green carts and seven-litre kitchen pails.

In 2030, that pricetag would rise to $96/year. Curbside collection would occur weekly on the same day as garbage and recycling pickup.

“It is the equivalent of a, you know, a couple of years’ worth of property tax increases. I get that. On the other hand … people are pretty clear, saying, ‘We want to do this,'” Mayes said.

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“Is there a cost? Yes. Is it worth doing? I think so.”

The city’s report shows 94 per cent of participants support residential food waste collection, although fewer — 66 per cent — are willing to pay for it.

The results of a Winnipeg-wide survey dipped slightly, with 60 per cent responding positively.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg city council set to vote on beneficial, environmentally responsible compost program'
Winnipeg city council set to vote on beneficial, environmentally responsible compost program

But Karrie Blackburn with Compost Winnipeg, who applauds the city’s report, says people are already paying a price for the greenhouse gas emissions landfills release and for the sites to be managed properly.

“We all know that we have to start making better choices for the environment,” Blackburn said.

Organics make up to 40 per cent of waste in Manitoba, according to the province, and produce methane — a gas 80 times for harmful than carbon dioxide — if left to decompose in anaerobic environments like landfills.

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Keeping organics out of dumps extends a landfill’s lifespan and reduces GHG emissions, Blackburn said.

“You’re already throwing out this waste. Instead of putting it in your garbage, simply put it in the compost, and it makes a tremendous impact,” she said.

And Zhou agrees, who adds the learning curve isn’t steep.

Along with others, Zhou opted to pay for Compost Winnipeg’s collection services after the pilot ended. She said she hopes the city doesn’t drag its feet and that Winnipeggers will get on board with a routine change: tossing organic waste into a separate bin.

“It’s just easy. It can be easy.”

Composting isn’t the only way to cut back your carbon footprint, she said. Zhou also encourages others to reduce and re-use.

Composting programs are common across Canada, despite being a new initiative for Winnipeg.

Montreal, Toronto and Regina already have green cart programs, with some going back decades. The one in Halifax began in 1998.

Here in Manitoba, communities like Altona, Brandon, Morden along with Winkler also run composting programs of their own.

According to the report, the composting program would need a processing facility with enough capacity and technology. However, Winnipeg doesn’t have one, and so, the public service is recommending it be privately owned and operated, just like recycling.

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Meanwhile, details on the facility’s location and funding from the federal and provincial governments still need to be ironed out, Mayes said.

As well, apartment buildings aren’t charged waste diversion fees, and therefore, aren’t included in the composting plan, he said.

“That would be a pretty big decision if we want to charge people, and if we do charge them, we’re going to have to start pickup,” Mayes said.

“I wouldn’t want to delay or cancel the whole thing over that, like maybe we have to start just doing single family and expand it later.”

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg slow to adopt organic waste collection service'
Winnipeg slow to adopt organic waste collection service

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