Since 2016, Compost Winnipeg has been picking up food waste from homes and businesses in the city.
As of November 2022, they’ve composted 4 million kilograms of organics — waste that would otherwise go to the landfill, where it would contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Winnipeg is the largest city in Canada without a city-run food waste collection program. For Compost Winnipeg customer service and sales lead Karrie Blackburn, it’s long overdue.
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“I don’t think we have a choice,” she said. “I think it’s something that definitely has to happen because it’s the responsible thing to do.”
She hopes the final report on the city’s Residential Food Waste Collection Pilot Project, due this spring, will show what she’s been hearing from participants from the 2020-2022 program.
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“A lot of people that got to participate in that pilot really loved the service,” she said. “Several have signed up for our service to continue their diversion, but a lot are really excited for the city to be able to roll it out city-wide.”
As a small social enterprise, Compost Winnipeg isn’t able to service all areas of the city. Participation is voluntary, and they charge a monthly fee for pickup. They recently received a $65,000 grant from the City to begin collecting from apartments and condos, but are far from being able to reach the whole city.
Councillor Brian Mayes, chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Water, Waste and Environment, says council will vote on a permanent organics collection service this year or in early 2023.
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“I think the moment’s come when we should be doing something,” he said.
As for what that would look like, Mayes can’t say yet, but he does hope council doesn’t drag their feet in implementing the program should the vote pass.
“Hopefully this isn’t one where we say ‘yes,’ and then four years later the collection starts. I’d like to say ‘yes’ and get this going much more quickly,” he said.
But even if collection began in 2024, Winnipeg is still late to the compost party; Winkler, Morden, Altona, and Brandon all have city-run organic waste pickup services. Brandon began their program over a decade ago, and now services about 10,000 households.
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Scott Haddow, manager of solid waste with the City of Brandon, says the program has many positives.
“Anytime you can divert material going into your landfill, you’re extending the life of the landfill,” he said, adding that composting and other waste reduction programs have made their landfill useable for an additional 10 years, saving the city money.
It’s also encouraged residents to garden and compost at home.
“I think more people are getting aware of the food securities that are out there,” Haddow said. “Providing them with this value-added product, it’s good for the city to be able to provide [that].”
Both Haddow and Blackburn see demand for food waste pickup continue to grow. The City of Brandon’s service, which is voluntary, grows by 500-700 households per year, and Compost Winnipeg had to pause taking on new clients to be able to keep up.
Until the City of Winnipeg implements a residential food waste pickup program, Blackburn recommends looking into vermicomposting, backyard composting, or using the Share Waste app, which connects people with food waste to people with compost bins.
“It has a very substantial impact, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term,” she said.
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