Saskatoon compost depots see huge spike in people dropping off organic material

An average of 700 cars a day are using the compost depots, up from about 350 vehicles last year.

An average of 700 vehicles are using the compost depots every day

Saskatonians are unloading organic material at the city's compost depots at a record rate. (Courtney Markewich/CBC)

Saskatoon's compost depots are seeing a huge spike in the number of vehicles dropping off their organic waste.

An average of 700 cars a day are using the compost depots, up from about 350 vehicles last year.

They're dumping lawn clippings, tree trimmings and food waste, and people are also picking up mulch and finished compost for their yards.

"Typically we'd have like a 10 per cent growth year on year. So this was like five times our normal year in terms of growth," said Brendan Lemke, the city's director of Water and Waste Operations.

Lemke said the jump in visitors caught the city by surprise.

"Our facilities aren't really designed for this much activity, so we had to do some rejigging to make sure that we could receive this kind of numbers."

Lemke said part of the reason for the spike may be because so many people are at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The city has a target of 70 per cent waste diversion rate by 2023. (Josh Pagé/CBC)

"But I also think it's an indication of the City of Saskatoon's readiness for wanting to deal with their organics in a better way," he added.

Lemke hopes the increased use of the compost depots will become a habit for more and more Saskatonians.

While there has been heated debate about how to accomplish waste diversion from the landfill — with curbside pickup or other methods — most residents support the idea.

"We did a study back in 2018 in which we surveyed over 5,000 residents and at that time I think our participation in support was about 80 per cent," Lemke said. "So I think some of our controversy isn't really around the principle of composting; it's maybe more just in the finer details of the implementation of our programs."

Despite the increase the city has a long way to go to reach its target of 70 per cent waste diversion rate by 2023.

"We're currently sitting at around 25 per cent," said Lemke, but added implementation of a curbside organics program could increase that by as much as 12 per cent.

"There's definitely some room to improve but we definitely also have a lot of initiatives in place that are going to continue to move us forward."

That includes new rules on how commercial operations are able to divert waste. 

And the city is designing a recovery park just outside the landfill where people will be able to divert waste instead of clogging up the landfill.

"I think that as people do use the composting and green cart type activities, they're going to see that it's not necessarily as complicated or difficult or onerous as one might think. And I think some new habits will get developed."


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