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Composting saves tax dollars

IN a 2011 report entitled "Backyard Composting Undervalued" by Christine Pinkham and Elizabeth Leboe of the North Shore Recycling Program, I found an interesting statistic about backyard composting.

IN a 2011 report entitled "Backyard Composting Undervalued" by Christine Pinkham and Elizabeth Leboe of the North Shore Recycling Program, I found an interesting statistic about backyard composting.

The statistic stated, "Without backyard composting, North Shore municipalities would require an additional 1,500 truck trips to the transfer station, for which they would be charged $874,227 in tipping fees each year." And that statistic doesn't even account for road repairs needed to support an additional 1,500 truck trips.

We all want our governments to be more efficient and cost effective, but perhaps we have to look inward at our own actions to realize that the choices we make as consumers and recyclers have large impacts on our environmental health and the bottom line.

Another interesting insight from the report states, "Over the last five years on the North Shore, we (the NSRP) have invested approximately $16,100 in bin subsidies and backyard composting, resulting in avoided tipping fees of approximately $3.5 million."

Wow, what an excellent return on investment, not to mention that no resident had to suffer tax increases.

According to the NRSP an average household can compost 500 kilograms of kitchen scraps, yard waste and low quality paper.

It is estimated that the two-thirds of North Shore households compost at home diverting 9,000 tonnes of green waste from municipal curbside collection

So what is the other one-third of households doing with their green waste? They are dumping it into the normal garbage collection waste stream, costing all of us money.

To the non-composting homes, I say: composting is in vogue and brown is the new green, so come join us and help save tax money and the environment.

The NRSP estimates that 25 per cent of the 24,000 tonnes of garbage picked up from North Shore houses could be backyard composted. And isn't it worth getting out in the yard and enjoying some composting exercise, helping to save the planet and our tax dollars?

Composting is so easy but still many people do not know how to do it. I shouldn't be surprised, because we do not teach our children at home or in our schools how to compost so it's not surprising that we have forgotten how. Here's how. Buy a NRSPsubsidized compost bin.

Find a place in the yard to set the bin in a location that will be convenient to use. Set up the bin according to the instructions.

Start adding all kitchen scraps including all vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee grounds, coffee filters, used paper towel and almost anything else organic or paper-based that will break down. Do not add meat or fish scraps to avoid calling to dinner the many foraging animals that share the North Shore.

As you add all that juicy kitchen waste you should add something for "metabolization balance" such as leaves from the garden, some soil, some twigs or sticks, wood chips, newspaper, paper towel, etc. to balance the digestion.

In essence, composting works through the action of bacteria and other soil organisms, which break down and digest carbon from leaves, newspaper, etc. by using up nitrogen found in grass clippings, green leaves and food scraps to produce compost that is rich in nutrients and microbial life. And compost is antibiotic for plants, a claim that no chemical fertilizer can make.

As with all things in life, nothing is free, you have to work for it and most things are good in moderation. So, if you put in too much of one material (green or brown), then you should add something comprised of the opposite material (brown or green) to balance the diet of the organisms that are metabolizing the waste. Balancing the amount of green to brown materials as you add them will speed up decomposition, prevent odour problems and produce excellent quality compost for use in the garden or houseplants.

I use my home-made compost for potting my houseplants, to plant new plants in the garden, as soil amender for new areas and as mulch for certain areas that have lean or thin soil. On the issue of compost aeration, which is a problem for many people, my view is this: if you balance the composter's diet at the time you add waste, then aeration is not necessary. If, however, you add too much of one material (green or brown) then aerate you must to infuse air into the pile so the bacteria can breathe for life. I never aerate my compost bin or my freestanding-windrow type of compost pile, but I am cognizant of what I am adding and how much.

If you want to be a real community keener, then start by putting your waste where your mouth is and start composting at home, to save some tax money and help the environment.

Todd Major is a journeyman horticulturist, garden designer, writer, consultant and organic advocate. For advice contact him at

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