It’s easier to clean our hands than to clean our compost

Agriculture tractor sowing seeds and cultivating field

Compost is a great alternative to fertilizers.

This is a call out to residents to ensure we are all treating the GreenCart with the respect it deserves.  Many residents are unaware that the material you throw in your GreenCart is being turned into beautiful compost.  This compost is vital to our local farmers, allowing them to use compost instead of chemical based fertilizers.  The program becomes a win – win for everyone, and a great closed loop cycle.  Residents help to save on landfill space and feel good about contributing to waste diversion; and farmers get the benefit of using natural fertilizer to help their crops grow.  This makes it really important for residents to make sure they are placing the right items in the GreenCart, so we can have the highest quality finished compost.

Halton’s GreenCart material is sent to the City of Hamilton’s Central Composting Facility, which is a state of the art indoor aerobic facility that can compost your GreenCart material in 21 days.  This accelerated process allows for a quick turn around of all your old food to be broken down into compost, a very rich, high nutrient soil that can act as a natural fertilizer. The compost produced from the City of Hamilton’s facility is mainly used on farmlands in the area.  Local farmers now have a product that will naturally fertilize their crops, and it helps to maintain moisture during the hot summer heat.

Since the compost is being placed on their fields, farmers are very particular about their product.  Strict testing guidelines are in place to ensure only the best compost goes out.  Just last year, new guidelines came out from The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. These guidelines help municipalities and compost facilities produce compost material that can be used in various applications.  The cleaner the material, the higher the compost grade and the more use you get out of the material.  Compost is now graded on an AA, A and B rating scale.  To achieve AA status, there has to be little to no contamination in the final compost product.

Remove all packaging before putting food in the GreenCart.

Remove all packaging before putting food in the GreenCart.

Halton and Hamilton’s material is currently graded at the highest level, but with the new guidelines we may find it more difficult to achieve this.  We are still finding unacceptable materials in the GreenCart program which cause contamination and affects the final compost grade.  We sometimes find batteries, utensils, and medical waste, but our biggest issue is food packaging; plastic bags and containers, glass bottles and jars, metal food cans, and smaller items like produce stickers, elastic bands, and bread tags.

So I want to remind residents to take that extra step.  We are doing so well with the GreenCart program, we have great diversion and participation rates, but we really need to make sure that we are taking our food waste out of any packing.  We have to try to get past the “yuck” factor of touching our old food.  Take the time to pull that mushy cucumber out of the plastic bag, and scrap the salsa from that glass jar, it may seem gross while you do it, but you can quickly and easily clean your hands – it’s not that easy to clean that plastic bag or glass jar out of our compost.  And, for a lot of those food containers, they can be quickly rinsed and now placed in our Blue Box program for recycling; helping to divert even more waste away from Halton’s landfill.

Actual plastic and glass found in final compost.

Actual plastic and glass found in final compost.

And don’t forget to look for the smaller items, they may seem insignificant, but they to end up in our final compost product.  Watch out for produce that has elastic bands and stickers, when taking bread out of plastic bags; ensure the plastic tab does not fall in the GreenCart.  These items do not compost, and quite often are found in the final compost product. Farmers do not want to use compost that contains hard plastic pieces, bits of glass, or produce stickers on their fields.

Taking a little extra time preparing our GreenCart to go out to the curb will ensure our material reaches the highest compost grade level, allowing it to be fully utilized on farmer’s fields.  Give yourself some extra time on garbage night and get the family involved, please remove food from all its packaging before placing it in the GreenCart.  And give your GreenCart a quick check before bringing it out to the curb, looking for items that should not be inside. Your extra effort will go a long way in ensuring Halton’s compost will continue to be used in a closed loop system.

About Nicole Watt

Hi! I am the GreenCart Program Coordinator. I have introduced the GreenCart program in Halton Region, and am continuing to work on implementing the GreenCart program into publicly-funded schools, townhouse complexes and apartment buildings.
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