August 4, 2020

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Residents divert one third of trash by recycling

Winnipeggers kept nearly a third of their trash out of the landfill last year but are still nowhere near reaching the 50 per cent diversion rate once targeted for 2020.

Overall, the city’s residents diverted 31.9 per cent of their waste from the dump in 2019, down from 33 per cent in 2018, according to an annual report.

City names neighbourhoods that will test curbside compost pickups

The City of Winnipeg has revealed the five neighbourhoods who will receive weekly curbside compost collection during an upcoming pilot project.

The City of Winnipeg has revealed the five neighbourhoods who will receive weekly curbside compost collection during an upcoming pilot project.

A new report notes the two-year, $1.8-million “source separated organics” pilot will serve about 4,000 residents of:

• Linden Woods

• St. George

• Inkster Gardens

• Mission Gardens and

• Daniel McIntyre.

The pilot is designed to collect food waste on a weekly basis, including fruit/vegetable scraps, meat and bones, which would otherwise end up in the landfill.

A city report says the neighbourhoods were selected to ensure the pickups applied to homes that vary by household size, income level, and pickup location (front street or back lane).

The curbside collection pilot is expected to run from October 2020 to September 2022. The city doesn’t currently expect the project will be delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the pilot, the public service is expected to offer council recommendations by late 2023 to implement a city-wide curbside compost collection program.

In 2011, the city hoped to divert 35 per cent of residential garbage by 2016 and more than half of it by 2020. The latter target was officially deferred last summer, when it became clear it wouldn’t be met.

The report notes people increasingly recycle lighter materials instead of heavier ones, which can affect the weight of what’s collected from blue bins.

"I don’t think people are recycling less, it’s just that the measure is by weight, so when the weight goes down a bit, then the tonnage that’s reported will go down," Moira Geer, Winnipeg’s water and waste director, said in an interview.

Overall, the diversion rate has remained largely stable since 2015.

And that won’t change until city-wide compost collection begins, said Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), the chairperson of council’s water and waste committee.

"We knew we would plateau. We’ve got to get going on the compost to get the number back up again," said Mayes.

Winnipeg residents diverted 31.9 per cent of their waste from the dump in 2019, down from 33 per cent in 2018. Overall, the diversion rate has remained largely stable since 2015. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Winnipeg residents diverted 31.9 per cent of their waste from the dump in 2019, down from 33 per cent in 2018. Overall, the diversion rate has remained largely stable since 2015. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The city expects to start a two-year curbside organics collection pilot program in October but council isn’t set to consider options for a city-wide program until late 2023.

Mayes said he’d like to speed up the long-awaited compost collection program, if the city can afford to do so.

"If the province can help us build a compost facility, then I think maybe we can get going more quickly … If we can get it done a year more quickly, that would be great," said Mayes.

City council once planned to add its compost pilot program by 2014 and implement Winnipeg-wide pickups by 2017. Instead, the project was delayed several times, largely over its potential cost.

Last year, the city expected adding compost collection throughout Winnipeg would cost about $17 million to implement, plus $9.6 million of annual operating costs. A composting facility to support the program would cost an additional $25 million to $58 million, according to one preliminary estimate.

Back in 2016, councillors had heated debates about the price of curbside compost collection. That’s when some elected officials railed against a proposal that would have charged homeowners between $55 and $100 per year for the service.

Geer said the pilot project will help determine the actual price of city-wide organics collection, how it should be paid for and how much it would divert from the landfill.

"We’ll do some rigorous measurements on what happens to the waste leaving somebody’s home," said Geer.

Lea Coté, a composting co-ordinator for the Green Action Centre, said she believes there is demand for a city-wide composting program. Cote said 450 local residences have signed up to pay for the centre’s Compost Winnipeg service, which now has a waiting list.

"We’ve seen people really embrace it. They really love it. We didn’t realize how popular it was going to be when we started," said Coté.

She said a city-run program would allow Winnipeggers to compost far more materials than they could in a backyard bin.

"By having curbside pickup, it collects a wide variety of things that we couldn’t normally compost on a smaller scale, everything from meat, bones, dairy, oily foods … none of that can go in your backyard bin," said Coté.

She said organics make up about 40 per cent of residential garbage, so a compost program would go a long way to diverting more waste.

There was also some good news in the city’s waste diversion update.

Per capita garbage generation has actually declined over the past several years, falling by about 21 per cent since 2011.

The report also notes 62 per cent of the city’s biosolids (a nutrient-rich byproduct of wastewater treatment) were diverted from the landfill through composting, soil fabrication and land application programs in 2019. That’s up from 32 per cent in 2018, said Geer.

Joyanne.pursaga@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga
Reporter

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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Updated on Thursday, July 2, 2020 at 7:07 PM CDT: Adds sidebar about composting pilot program

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