Composting: from rot to hot

Posted by on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 at 1:17pm.

The art of taking kitchen scraps and using them in the garden is not new.  Composting has morphed from standard farm kitchen procedure to hippie commune idea to being a mainstream must-do thing.

Today, yard waste, kitchen waste, dryer lint, coffee grounds and even chicken bones are recycled as compost, not always for the benefit of gardens which we may or may not have, but for the benefit of keeping this unnecessary waste out of the landfill.  And with today’s curbside pickup service from private firms and municipalities, it seems quite ordinary now to keep your rotten tomatoes in a bucket under the sink til the next pickup day.

New technologies

A firm called Hop Compost has been working in Calgary since last year and has kept almost a million kilograms (known as a gigagram) out of area landfills.  This amazing feat is thanks to a process called Hot Rot. Composted material is converted through a clean-tech process into excellent quality organic compost material. The resulting material is organic and is certified as such by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.  This initiative conserves water and keeps material out of the land fill sites in Calgary in a very unique way.

Hop Compost works with businesses with high volumes of weekly organic waste like restaurants and foot stores.

Another local firm, Grow Calgary, is situated on the west side of Winsport Canada Olympic Park.  This suburban farm also engages the food waste from restaurants in Calgary and actively composts everything with organic agricultural left overs such as leaves, grass clippings and soil.  The resulting compost is used for its own purposes.

The City of Calgary has been conducting a pilot project since 2012 through a green cart program in four Calgary communities:  Southwood and Cougar Ridge in the South West, Brentwood in the North West and Abbeydale in the North East.  Residents in these select communities have been throwing out kitchen scraps and yard waste dutifully.

The program came into existence because the City of Calgary identified that 60% of everything in city landfills was comprised of organic materials. They launched a massive education program to inform Calgarians about what happens when food, grass clippings and other yard waste ends up in the landfill.  Contrary to popular belief, this material doesn’t break down as fast as it does in a proper compost facility.  The conditions aren’t favourable – in fact, apple cores might dry out but they don’t rot. Often organic material is buried along with other non-biodegradable objects.  On the City of Calgary’s website, the Green Cart page shows a package of hot dogs that was thrown into the landfill 10 years ago.  It appears virtually unchanged.

It’s a unique combination of moisture, humidity, oxygen and the proper atmosphere for the survival of important microbes which enhance the degradation of organic material, converting it into soil.

The next step is to introduce green carts to all single-family homes in Calgary which they hope to roll out in the middle of 2017.  Hand-in-hand with compost pickup is the City’s new composting facility at the Shepard Landfill in the South East.  Once opened next year, it promises to be the biggest organics composting processing facility in the country.

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