Nfld. & Labrador

Mandatory composting cuts garbage by 50 per cent in Cape St. George

The small town prepared for a spike in garbage fees by educating residents on composting, and ended up saving money.

Saving 2 tonnes a week equals cash savings, says Mayor Peter Fenwick

Facing a spike in composting fees, Cape St. George implemented a composting program to cut down on costs. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Facing a hike in the cost of dumping garbage, the small community of Cape St. George on Newfoundland's west coast needed to find a way to save money.

Changes to the waste management system meant their garbage had to be trucked five hours to Norris Arm, and costs had quadrupled since 2014.

Mayor Peter Fenwick said the town made the decision to take an aggressive approach to composting, in an effort to cut down the amount of waste they sent to landfill — and just like that, it dropped by two tonnes per week.

"When we started on it in July, we were flabbergasted," Fenwick said.

Peter Fenwick says his community has cut down significantly on waste sent to the landfill by enforcing composting. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC News)

The town hired a person to hand out composting bins — free of charge — and show people what can be diverted from their trash can.

About 200 people, or half of the town's population, signed up for a bin, and the town is forcing anyone who didn't to compost as well. 

"Nobody was excused. In fact, what we tell people is if you're not going to do it, we're not going to pick your garbage up," Fenwick said. "The result has been absolutely spectacular."

Part of the pitch was to cut down on costs and eventually lower taxes through the savings.

The town has managed to drop its garbage-collection fees by about $5, to $155 per resident.

Fenwick said it was such a slight change because they needed to pay off the price of the bins.

Residents in Cape St. George have to separate organic material from their trash before putting it out on the curb. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

According to Fenwick, that cost was covered within three months, by saving $300 a week in tipping fees at the landfill.

Compared to neighbouring communities, the mayor said people in Cape St. George are paying about $30 less per year in garbage collection fees, and it's only expected to go down as residents start composting more.

"People are extremely proud that we're ahead of the curve, that we've done more than we had to do, and that it in fact, actually translated to money in their pocket," he said.

With files from Newfoundland Morning