Birch River (Photo by NCC)

Birch River (Photo by NCC)

Doing the Rot Thing

Green bin in Edmonton

Green bin in Edmonton

Caring about nature means being conscious about how the choices you make effect the planet. Conserving Canada’s iconic landscapes are important, but caring for the environment starts at home. While there are many small acts you can do to make a difference, there is another easy option currently happening in Edmonton.

The green bins rollout in Edmonton will introduce a sustainable alternative for discarding food scraps and other organic matter, such as grass clippings and yard waste. Organic matter also includes animal droppings, fire pit ashes, and food-stained paper towels.

The initiative aims to divert around 65 per cent of residential waste from landfills in Edmonton by 2023. Along with reducing landfill waste, composting will diminish greenhouse gas emissions, prevent groundwater contamination, and create nutrient-rich soil.

Waste from the carts will be collected once a week, shifting to once every two weeks in the winter. Residents must use compostable bags certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and The Bureau du normalisation du Quebec.

Composting is important because when organic matter is combined with non-biodegradable items, such as plastics and styrofoam, groundwater and soil become contaminated with harmful chemicals.

As waste decomposes in landfills, it produces a hazardous fluid commonly known as leachate, which trickles down into our drinking water supply. Leachate is known for causing significant damage to human health and the environment due to its heavy metal concentration. A study conducted by the United States Geological Survey states that drinking contaminated water can lead to serious health issues such as hepatitis, typhoid or cancer.

Furthermore, separating organic matter will reduce methane gas emissions, which have more than 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

In landfills, decomposition is an anaerobic process (without oxygen) that generates methane gas as a byproduct. While composting is an aerobic process (with oxygen), which keeps methane-producing microbes dormant. Thus, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Another benefit to at-home composting is that, as we become increasingly comfortable with the food scrap bins, we can also create compost for our gardens to produce nutrient-rich soil. Whether you’re growing native flowers to attract bumble bees or vegetables, your garden is sure to thrive thanks to your composting efforts.

Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost slowly releases nutrients back into the soil without burning plant foliage. It further strengthens the soil's structure and prevents erosion by stimulating healthy root systems which bind to soil particles.

Despite the many benefits of composting, many homeowners are still reluctant to start their own pile due to unwanted pests and odours.

A simple way to deter pests and minimize odors is to keep meat, oil, and dairy products out of your pile. Rodents and insects are drawn to the scent of rotting organic matter as it provides food and creates ideal breeding conditions.

Planting herbs such as mint and thyme in your garden can further deter pests such as fleas, mice, and raccoons. However, it is important to note that mint has the potential to be invasive and can take over your garden. It is best to confine your mint bed with edging around its perimeter to prevent uncontrolled spread.

If you live in Edmonton and want to find out more information on the green cart rollout and compostable items, please visit the City of Edmonton's website. If you live elsewhere, you can also create your own compost pile with a few simple steps.

To start your own pile, chose a location with good drainage and avoid composting on still water. Start by layering brown waste such as wilted grass, twigs, and dried leaves with green waste such as grass clippings and food scraps. It is important to keep your pile moist, but not wet to prevent foul odors. Once it reaches 3 feet in height, turn your compost weekly to add oxygen to the pile, this will help breakdown the organic matter.

Although they may seem insignificant, the choices we make in our daily routines are the first steps to preserving our natural areas. It is never too late to start making a change, even the smallest acts can help protect and restore the natural areas around us.

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