Canadian Composting Industry on the Grow

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Courtesy of BioCycle Magazine

Organic residuals continue to represent one of the largest untapped portions of the residential and industrial waste streams in Canada. However, this will not continue for much longer. Throughout Canada, programs have been or are about to be established that will capture organic materials and, through composting, transform them into value-added products for use in a multitude of applications.

The Composting Council of Canada was established almost ten years ago to serve as the advocate of the composting industry in Canada. Since its inception, the Council has been witness to and a supporter of the growth of an industry sector that has one foot in the waste management business and the other in the manufacturing business. It is from both these businesses that our industry’s revenue stream is based and that our ultimate success depends.

If success is defined as “units of growth,” then the composting industry in Canada is already successful. The Council’s first survey of centralized composting operations was conducted in 1994. At this time, there were approximately 100 centralized facilities across the country composting approximately 300,000 metric tons of organics annually. Five years later, our 1999 survey indicates that the number of public and private sector composting operations now exceeds 300.

These operations are processing over 1,650,000 metric tons of organic materials and producing over 800,000 metric tons of compost annually. Conservative estimates are that this does not even represent 20 percent of the overall potential for our industry!

This centralized success story is complemented by the growth of backyard composting. Always a mainstay with gardeners, home composting units have been heavily promoted by local and provincial governments as an effective waste diversion method.

In the early to mid 1990s, this promotion included price subsidies to “motivate” residential acceptance. Right now, it is estimated that over 1.2 million home composting units have been distributed throughout Canada.

The product usage side of the story is equally positive. Compost markets are being established on the basis of product benefits and reinforced through the ongoing delivery of consistent product quality. Compost markets have been and are being developed in a range of categories including landscaping, horticultural and agricultural applications, reclamation and remediation.


The composting industry is positioned for further exponential growth, reflective of a number of initiatives across the country. From east to west, the following are just some of the many sparks that will fuel our growth.

  • In 1995, the province of Nova Scotia introduced its “Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy” with an objective of achieving a 50 percent diversion rate by 2000. In addition to more stringent disposal standards for landfills, the strategy established a series of disposal bans for many materials including corrugated cardboard, newsprint, and steel/tin/glass food and beverage containers. The mandatory diversion of compostable organics came into effect in November, 1998. Composting facilities and organics collection programs have been implemented throughout the province. 
  • In December, 1999, Prince Edward Island announced plans to introduce mandatory source separation throughout the province over a two-year period of implementation. This direction builds from the successful experience of a local program that implemented a three stream (organics, dry recyclables, waste) source separation program that achieved a diversion rate of over 65 percent. In recent months, two regions in the province of New Brunswick have moved forward with centralized composting efforts. The Westmorland-Albert Wet-Dry Solid Waste Corporation’s Wet-Dry Processing facility opened in November, 1999 and is taking residential waste from the region’s 200,000 population base in addition to the area’s ICI (institutional, commercial, industrial) sector. The other, the Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission, will be operational by August 2001 and is being designed for annual throughput of 11,000 metric tons of source separated organics (accounting for seasonal requirements and some potential for expansion).
  • In September, 1998, the province of Quebec announced a ten year strategy and action to deal with all types of waste materials and associated educational and financial support. The province has declared that, by 2002, all municipalities must implement leaf and yard trimmings composting operations. A $2 million research and communication support fund is being set up to assist composting developments in Quebec.
  • In November, 1999, the province of Ontario announced the formation of the Waste Diversion Organization (WDO) — a partnership of government, municipalities and industry — to help develop, fund and implement municipal waste diversion activities. As part of its Memorandum of Understanding with its partners, $2 million has been earmarked towards the diversion of organic residuals. The majority of funding is to assist municipalities with the establishment of organic waste diversion systems, including centralized composting and anaerobic digestion facilities. There also will be educational programs encouraging waste diversion.
  • As part of its “Code of Practice for Compost Facilities,” the province of Alberta has introduced a Municipal Waste Facility Operator Certification Guideline that will require each composting facility to have at least one certified operator by September, 2001. Another important happening in Alberta is the March, 2000 opening of the Edmonton cocomposting facility. The composter has been financed, built and will be operated by TransAlta, an Alberta-based energy company, under a 30 year contract with the City of Edmonton. The city is committed to providing approximately 202,500 metric tons of waste each year and will pay tipping fees on a per ton basis. At the end of 30 years, Edmonton has the option of taking ownership of the plant. (See “Composting On All Fronts In Alberta” in this issue for additional details.)
  • The province of British Columbia is revising its existing regulations of centralized composting to expand from their current municipal solid waste focus to include other organic feedstocks including industrial materials and biosolids. These regulations are expected to be in place by early 2001.

All of the above activities, in addition to many others, clearly set the scene for increased diversion of the organic fraction of Canada’s waste stream and the continued expansion of composting initiatives across our country. As such, it is no wonder that the Council’s slogan for this year’s Composting Awareness Week (April 30 - May 6, 2000) and activities is “Compost … The Future Starts Here!”

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