New composter diverts waste from Thunder Bay landfill

More than one third of the waste that's dumped at the landfill in Thunder Bay is comprised of organic material like kitchen waste, but some at Lakehead University want to reduce that amount.

Lakehead University test drives a composting machine that converts organic waste to soil

Hugh Briggs is director of the physical plant at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. He said running a composter in the university's main kitchen keeps the food scraps out of the reach of bears. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

More than one third of the waste that's dumped at the landfill in Thunder Bay is comprised of organic material like kitchen waste, but some at Lakehead University want to reduce that amount.

"I wanted to find a solution to dealing with vegetable matter that the kitchen produces, [and] to try and help divert [it] from the waste stream,” said Hugh Briggs, as he stands by a new stainless steel composter in the university's main kitchen.

Compost material waits its turn to be put through Lakehead University's large, stainless steel composting machine. The machine can turn 300 kg of food waste into 30 kg of soil. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The machine is bigger than a washer and dryer and ingests about 300 kg of food waste at a time. That food waste eventually gets turned into 30 kg of soil, which will be used on area fields.

"We're going to be using this material on our playing fields in the springtime,” he said.

“Right now, we're collecting it in a stockpile to determine how much we're going to get, because basically we've only just started running the machine this year. We have a need in our playing fields to top dress them … to produce good grass to play on."

Sending less waste to the landfill has caught the attention of Jason Sherband, Thunder Bay's co-ordinator for waste diversion.

"Organics [are] 40 per cent of the waste stream, so … if it's going to take that type of material out in terms of volume, I'm sure we'll obviously see a decrease coming out to the site,” he said.

Sherband said a recent study shows many homeowners want a city-wide program to keep compostable material out of the landfill.

He noted the city is currently looking into an organics collection system.

"When we presented the community with the list or menu of options, obviously the organics or green bin program was highlighted,” he said.

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