Let’s Reduce Our City’s Waste

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Project: Food Policy

With the municipal election just around the corner, we’ve started the conversation about how our municipal government can start to resolve food related issues many Winnipegers are facing throughout the city.

There’s no denying that when you think about the role of municipal government in daily urban life, one of the first things that often comes to mind is waste management—picking up the trash, sorting through the recyclables, and all the other tasks associated with keeping our city clean.  In recent years, the municipal government has made changes to the way we deal with Winnipeg’s waste and in 2011 they proposed a plan to reach a 50% or more rate of waste diversion through changes to the existing garbage and recycling program.  But when it comes to organic waste, the proposed plans haven’t taken place and full-scale implementation remains a long way off — and considering that over 40% of all household waste is organic (mainly food waste), shouldn’t it be a more prominent component of the City’s waste management plan?

Reducing Landfills

In the same year the City rolled out its action plan to decrease the amount of trash that was ending up in our landfills. Stats Canada determined that only 24% of all kitchen waste in Winnipeg was staying out of the garbage can and being composted instead.  However, in cities like Guelph, Halifax, Oshawa, and Barrie, research shows that over 70% of kitchen waste was diverted from landfills.  Why?  Because these cities have comprehensive waste diversion programs that include municipal run composting facilities and curbside pickup for organic waste.  It’s becoming a civic trend across the country with more and more Canadian cities, large and small, rolling out municipal composting programs to reduce the amount of waste that is ending up in our landfills.  But, unfortunately, just not in Winnipeg.

And while the City has been taking the initiative to encourage backyard composting through the distribution of Earth Machines and even rolled out a curbside yard waste pick up program this past spring, the reality is there are literally tons of organic waste coming out of Winnipeg households that just can’t be broken down in backyard bins and doesn’t fall into the yard waste category.

Policy Recommendations

So what can the City do to divert over 40% of Winnipeg’s waste and keep our leftovers and food scraps out of the landfills?

  1. Pilot a residential curbside compost pick up program to integrate organic waste diversion into the City’s waste management plan
  2. Pilot commercial composting program so that it is more economical for businesses and institutions to divert their organic waste from the landfill
  3. Show leadership by composting at all municipal buildings and city run institutions
  4. Generate public awareness for the benefits of composting and advocate for the City to become a leader in municipal organic waste diversion in Manitoba

This past spring, Brandon rolled out their Green Cart program that allows residents to opt into bi-weekly curbside organic waste pick up.  Fruits, vegetables, bread, seafood shells, leaves, and small amounts of cardboard, among other things, are being turned into rich, nutrient dense soil that is given away to city residents and used to supplement city green spaces, including parks and community gardens that are supplying community members with fresh, local food.  So, why not Winnipeg?

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