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Many of us can say we’re guilty of disposing our leftover food or garden trimmings in the same bin as the rest of our trash without the knowledge of the harm it causes to the environment.

“When you send food products to the landfill, it’ll be the only thing that’ll decompose because it’s buried in a landfill without oxygen,” says Brigitte Morin, waste diversion coordinator at the University of Ottawa. “This creates methane, which is 20 times worse than CO2 for climate change.”

Waste management can be a smelly business, but both small and large communities throughout the country are promoting composting practices and ensuring their citizens are well aware of the resources available to them.

Composting at government level

“There is tremendous diversity in the technology and sizes of composting facilities in Alberta,” says Natasha Page, waste reduction specialist at the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) ministry of the Government of Alberta. The ESRD currently regulates over 70 facilities across the province, with one of North America’s biggest composting facilities located in Edmonton.

In an effort to reach out to Albertans, Page says the “ESRD staff often attends seminars and workshops hosted by industry and recycling groups” like the Compost Council of Canada, the Solid Waste Association of North America and, amongst others, to showcase their waste reduction initiatives. “ESRD staff members also sit on waste reduction committees to share information with municipalities.”

The expansion of composting initiatives in Alberta has lead to jobs for news grads as facility operators, processors, haulers, and waste consultants. And individuals as waste management directors can make upwards of $90,000 a year.

Green practices at school

From a community the size of the province of Alberta to a much smaller community the size of a university, the University of Ottawa has also integrated a composting program of their own. “Composting is the single most important thing that people can do that has the most impact on our environment,” says Morin. “It’s pretty important and when you do it yourself, you’re saving all the costs and gas to send it elsewhere.”

While composting initiatives at the University of Ottawa have been around since 1992, the school executes their entire composting program in-house through a large-scale composting machine that was introduced in 2008.

“The machine is on our campus and our teams are the ones responsible for collecting all the foods on campus, bringing it to the location, feeding the machine, and taking it to the machine,” says Morin, adding that the composting program is executed by seven sanitary staff, two supervisors, as well as herself.

To ensure students are aware of the program, Morin says there are “a lot of different promotional campaigns” throughout the campus, and by “seeing the compost signage on the recycling stations, people are aware” of the programs.

She also encourages students to get involved through volunteer work. “A lot of students help us out with promotions and outreach,” say Morin. “A problem that we have is that people will see the word biodegradable on something and think that it’s compostable even though it’s not. So we need their help spread to the word for that kind of stuff.”

Photo: Ockra/Thinkstock