City of Lacombe emphasizing home composting

Rachel Auras, an administrative assistance in the City of Lacombe's finance department and a home composter, shows how to compost with an Earth Machine composter outside of City Hall on Friday. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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With the recent discontinuation of residential recycling pickup, the City of Lacombe is encouraging residents to reduce their own waste by starting a home composting program.

They’re offering the tools for at least a few residents to get started with a limited supply of ‘Earth Machine’ composters, which they hope will help conserve landfill space, complete the food cycle and minimize the release of greenhouse gases.

“Approximately 25 per cent of household waste is organics – something you could compost. By composting at home you could divert it and turn it into ‘black gold’ (compost) and use it to return nutrients back to your soil, as opposed to the landfill where it actually can’t compost,” said Rachel Auras, administrative assistant in finance at the city and a “passionate” home composter.

Composting is known as nature’s way of recycling and is normally a naturally-occuring process for organic materials, such as grass and leaves, vegetable peelings, and egg shells. However, Auras explains that when those materials are put into the landfill, microorganisms and oxygen that help in the breakdown of organic waste aren’t available. Organic waste rots instead, releasing methane  into the atmosphere and creating the not-so-pleasant landfill odour.

The smell also affects the behaviour of animals, attracting migrating birds, for example, who start to rely on food scraps from the landfills, and end up ingesting plastic and other materials, that leave them feeling full, but in reality starving them.

Rachel Auras, an administrative assistance in the City of Lacombe’s finance department and a home composter, shows how to compost with an Earth Machine composter outside of City Hall on Friday. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

By contrast, composting would help replenish the soil with valuable nutrients – thus the “black gold” nickname – and ultimately save the composting resident some money, rather than have organics continue to go to the landfill where they create more problems.

“You don’t have to buy fertilizer anymore, which means you don’t have to worry about overdosing your garden because you can put as much compost down as you want without killing your plants. It can also works like mulch and retain moisture in your soil, so you don’t have to water your garden and your plants as much and hopefully decrease your water bill,” she said.

“It saves resources, it saves money. It’s great for the environment, and it’s great for your soil.”

Composting has been something the city has encouraged for the past five years with the order of Earth Machine composters, but it’s now an initiative they’re emphasizing while they work on the solid waste review to get people think about how they can be more environmentally sustainable at home, and taking initiative to be more green themselves at home.

Earth Machine composters, which have the capacity for a household of five, are available at City Hall for $50, however, as of Friday there were just eight left. Manager of Utilities Chris Huston says there may be a possibility for them to order in more should the demand be there, but residents can also purchase composters that suit their needs on their own.

Plans are also in the works to consider a structured, city-led composting program akin to the one now in effect in the City of Red Deer.

The city’s solid waste review has already begun and Huston says the company hired for the project, Tetratech Consulting, is reviewing all waste streams in terms of what Lacombe does now and what the city could do.

“It’s going to include organics, recycling, what goes to the landfill and then they’ll have recommendations. We expect the review to be complete in October-November, so we’ll be able to have a guideline for what direction Lacombe wants to go,” he said. “If the city does introduce an organic recycling cart, if people are already composting it’s going to much easier.”

For more information, visit www.lacombe.ca/compost.

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