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August 2009
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Toronto's Compost Debate

Toronto is said to be forward thinking, a model for cities of the world with regards to its composting program. But there are some mixed feelings as to whether or not the composting waste is actually being composted.

The Toronto Star has reported (and more than once) that the amount of waste that the city claims it diverts is inflated.

Why Isn’t the Composting System Working

The City of Toronto provides a list of items that can go into the green, compost bin. The list includes traditional diapers and kittie litter, which we all know does not do well in a compost bin. In addition they tell residents to put it in a plastic bag, which obviously do not decompose.

The Toronto Star reports that the compost that is produced from city waste is highly salient. With the high salt content farmers are not willing to buy the compost because it kills their crops.

The final issue really complicating composting is the fact that compost sites have been shut down due to the smell they produce. The NIMBY’s are not recognizing the benefits of having mass compost areas but they’ll also criticize the city for not having a compost program!

Is it possible to find a viable solution?

The idea of city wide composting is great, we all (should) produce ample amounts of compost waste everyday (I say should because it does depend on one’s diet). I think the fault in the system is how we currently deal with the compost. Publicly run composting systems just aren’t working, instead it should be privately owned. In this regard there would be more incentive for removing waste which cannot be composted and producing a higher quality product; the better the compost, the more farmers and others will buy, the higher the profits.

I think if it were privatized that there were be incentive for the apartments and condos to ask their residents to start composting. It’s no secret that people living in apartments are not required to compost and everything ends up in a landfill. But their garbage is someone else’s treasure.

If compost bins were privatized there would also be more incentive to track those that polluted the compost. Add to that municipal waste should be sorted and that which is for the compost should end up in the compost pile.

Composting, recycling, pre-cycling, diversion, etc. are the future for our cities. It is just a matter of providing a combination of the right education and a well-managed waste system.


Comment from Julie Deslauriers
Time September 7, 2009 at 3:18 pm

Is Toronto as forward thinking as they say?
Europeans have been commposting on-site for the last 20 years, eliminating transportation of food waste, producing very high quality compost and enrolling communities into taking ownership in doing something about eliminating the waste they produce… Toronto might be forward thinking compared to other canadian provinces but is that enough? Thanks for reading my comment and taking a look at my website