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Composting kitchen waste still slow to catch on in Sudbury

Sudbury is the only major city in northeastern Ontario to offer a green bin program for kitchen food waste.

Advocates of using a green bin say people need to get in the habit of doing it, like they did with recycling

Rebecca Danard, executive director of Rethink Green, a non-profit environmental network in the city, says Sudbury's composting system can handle more than you'd expect. (Marina von Stackelberg)
Sudbury is the only community in northeastern Ontario that has a food composting program. But less than half the population participates. 7:59

Sudbury is the only major city in northeastern Ontario to offer a green bin program for kitchen food waste.

But five years after it started, less than half of the people in Sudbury are participating.

Melanie Smits counts herself as one of them who doesn’t, even though she believes in the importance of composting.

“I live in the outskirts with bears and coyotes walking my street. I really didn't like the smell in my house.”

There was a time when recycling was not habitual either.-  Rebecca Danard, executive director of Rethink Green

Only about 35 to 40 per cent of Sudburians are putting a green bin on their curb.

The executive director of Rethink Green, a non-profit environmental network in the city, said that number needs to change.

“They just haven't gotten into the habit of doing it yet,” Rebecca Danard said.

“Because there was a time when recycling was not habitual either.”

Danard said the smell from compost can be controlled by lining the bin with paper and emptying it every week.

Plus, she said, the city's composting system can handle more than you'd expect, including “old pizza boxes, microwave popcorn bags, Tim Horton’s cups, tea bags, [and] bones.”

The director of Sudbury’s Environmental Services said the city's garbage bag limit of three per week is high compared to other cities that offer compost.

That means Sudburians are less likely to make the effort to separate out their organic waste, Chantal Mathieu said.

Composting conundrum

Sudbury is facing a rather unique challenge with its composting program.

If you've put leaf and yard trimmings out for pickup, it turns out the composted version might not be usable on your garden.

Sudbury Environmental Services director Chantal Mathieu said the high mineral content of our yard trimmings poses a problem.

“Because we live in the Nickel basin, once we compost our leaf and yard trimmings, they typically are a little higher in metals than other parts of the province,” she said.

If the mineral content tests higher than allowed, Mathieu said it can't be sold.

But the compost is not wasted, she noted. The city uses it to cover its landfills, rather than importing topsoil.

The City of Greater Sudbury plans to develop a new five-year solid waste strategy and will look for input from the community in the near future.

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