A big year for composting

Municipal composting is one of those things where economic costs and environmental costs move together in many ways.  If it costs more, it probably is going to have a greater impact, and vice versa.

For example, if everyone was able to backyard compost all their food waste, that would certainly be cheap for taxpayers and also have a low impact on the environment.  But if everyone was putting their food waste in a green bin, then that food was transported by trucks to Salmo, and processed there by machines only to be transported back to Nelson in its finished form that is a lot of extra environmental impact – and cost.

Of course, an economy of scale would be needed to ensure that any centralized system would work effectively – but would that mean we would actually be encouraging people to NOT backyard compost because of the ease of the new system?  And would the people who do do backyard composting be asked to pay for the centralized service?

In my time working for EarthMatters doing waste reduction and composting at the Nelson markets,  and also as a composting specialist at Ellison’s, I’ve learned that there are a lot of people in Nelson who care really dedicated composters.  A lot of people wouldn’t think of putting organics in the garbage.

But there are also a lot of people who are struggling with composting.  They may  have wildlife issues, no space, or some other issue. They would like to compost, but there are not a whole lot of options for them.  These are the people that a centralized system, or other system, would attempt to accommodate.

Over the next year the RDCK will be developing an amendment to their Resource Recovery Plan which will almost certainly include a plan for regional composting.  Will this be a centralized facility?  Perhaps a few?  Something else? Who will do the pick up, and what will be the geographic limitations for the pick-up trucks?  How will the City of Nelson be involved?  Will they need to get new garbage/recycling/composting trucks?

And what about all the people who do backyard composting now?

Over the next year this blog will be following the RDCK, the City of Nelson, and regional residents in an attempt to facilitate a discussion on this regional composting plan.  The goal is to help come up with the best solution possible.

That solution needs to have an ultimate environmental benefit – or it is not worth it to spend a penny.  That will be an important thing to keep in mind as we look into the issues surrounding municipal composting in our region.

-Bruce