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Backyard Composting: even more important than we thought!

North Shore Recycling Program Read FamilyArticle in the North Shore News, April 13, 2011

Almost Zero Waste

“I can’t believe that my family of six only puts out one tiny bag of garbage each week!”

Jennifer Read, her husband David and 4 children – Jared, Curren, Leah and Tanner – were one of 25 families participating in the North Shore Recycling Program’s composter diversion study to measure the amount of waste the average family can keep off the curb by composting.“We knew backyard composting was instrumental in reducing materials placed at the curb for collection and disposal,” says Elizabeth Leboe, Community Programs Coordinator at the NSRP, “but we’ve never had numbers to back up our estimates. Now we do!”

Compared to an average North Shore household, study results show that a composting household, practicing smart purchasing habits, can reduce its garbage by a full can each week, reduce its yard-trimmings by half a can per week and keep a total of 437kg of organic materials off the curb per year!

“Composting”, says Jennifer, “was a critical step moving us toward zero waste!”

11 Months of Measurements

As Metro Vancouver strives to divert 70% of our region’s waste from disposal by 2015, it is increasingly important that we know just how much material we are generating and diverting.

“Metro Vancouver estimates that a backyard composter diverts 250kg from the curbside collection stream each year,” says Leboe “but in fact, no one has actually taken detailed
measurements to determine the accuracy of that number.”

Last year, the NSRP set out to measure exactly how much organic material a household with compost training can keep off the curb.

Twenty-five families received hands-on training and followed the Composting in Bear Country guidelines jointly developed by the NSRP and the North Shore Black Bear Society (NSBBS).

For 11 months in 2010, these generous and diligent families tracked their garbage and yard trimmings set-outs and actually weighed the food waste, low-quality
household papers and yard trimmings that they added to their composts.

Curbside Reductions and Cost Savings

North Shore Recycling Program CurrenIn 2010, North Shore single-family households placed 19,409 tonnes of garbage and 10,638 tonnes of yard trimmings at the curb for collection; that’s about 3.3 cans at the curb per house each week.

By composting their organics, our 25 families reduced their average weekly set-out to 1.7 cans, saving the municipality $35 in annual tipping fees (charges assessed to the municipality for taking materials to the transfer station). This “missing can-and-a-half” or $35 may not seem like much, but consider that there are over 23,000 households on the North Shore using composters.

These households are keeping over 10,100 tonnes of organics off the curb each year and saving the North Shore municipalities over $800,000 annually.

But, there are still another 15,000 single-family households that are not composting on the North Shore. Just imagine the reductions in truck trips to the transfer station and
Cache Creek, tipping-fee savings and healthier gardens when more households start managing their own organics through composting!

If you choose to become a household that starts composting your organics on site, we can help.

You Can Try It, Too!

The most important steps to successful, bear-safe composting are to: aerate every time you add food to the bin; match the volume of kitchen scraps with an equal volume of
high-carbon ‘browns’
; and never compost protein-rich foods in bear country.

The easiest source of “brown” is fallen leaves hoarded in autumn. But torn-up newspaper, paper towels and napkins, tissue paper, cardboard egg cartons and toilet paper rolls are all low-quality household papers available year-round that will help you meet your compost’s carbon requirements.

The real key to composting in bear country is managing bear attractants: garbage, fruit trees, bird-feeders, dirty barbeques, outdoor freezers and pet food left outside.

“By managing or removing bear attractants in your yard and composting effectively,” advises Christine Miller of the NSBBS, “you will decrease the amount of smelly garbage attracting bears to your neighbourhood.”

Help Getting Started

It’s easy to start composting and, right away, you will notice a significant reduction in the garbage you carry to the curb.

We challenge you to get closer to zero waste, just like the Read family!

Download the pdf of this article.


Your Personal Compost Expert

Feed-Your-Food-CarrotsLearn how to
minimize common composting problems, set up and use the Green Can program and create less waste!
Click here to learn more.

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hether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, you're guaranteed to learn something new and how to:

minimize common composting problems,

improve your finished compost and

take less garbage to the curb.


Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, you're guaranteed to learn something new and how to:

·minimize common composting problems,

·improve your finished compost and

·take less garbage to the curb.

Report a Bear Sighting

North Shore Recycling Program Bear SocietyThe North Shore Black Bear Society's goal is to reduce the conflict between people and bears and to encourage co-existence through education, support and cooperation. Help us generate accurate bear sighting statistics: report a bear sighting.

Compost Trouble?

North Shore Recycling Program HelpCheck out our Troubleshooting Page for solutions to common problems or view our Composting How-To Videos.

Study finds Backyard Composting Undervalued