RDEK pilot compost project underway

Residents of the Columbia Valley and Elk Valley are being encouraged to take part in a new pilot composting project.

Residents of the Columbia Valley and Elk Valley are being encouraged to take part in a new pilot composting project being coordinated by the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) this summer.

“Residents are now able to drop off their household kitchen waste at the Columbia Valley Landfill, and Sparwood and Fernie Transfer Stations,” explains RDEK Environmental Services Manager Kevin Paterson. “The composting bins for the public are specially marked and will be available through the end of October.”

The program accepts nearly all kitchen scraps. While many residents in the East Kootenay already compost fruits and vegetables on a small scale, there are food scraps, such as meats, cheeses, paper plates, and paper towels that are not appropriate for backyard composting due to the potential for attracting wildlife and pests. These are all accepted in the pilot program.

The RDEK has also partnered with a number of businesses on a commercial organics trial in an effort to address this significant waste stream in the East Kootenay.

Organics collected through the public drop off bins and the commercial program are being combined and processed together. “The Regional District is testing a low-tech, but highly efficient method to process the organic materials, using carefully monitored windrows,” says Paterson. “The Regional District already manages household waste, recyclables and other waste streams, so adding organics to our services would be a natural next-step.  This pilot project will help us to be better able to understand our ability to process organics on a larger scale.”

Groundswell Network Society in Invermere has been a strong supporter of the pilot project and Executive Director  Bill  Swan  emphasizes  the  opportunity  for  turning  our  waste  into  valuable  material.  “Well managed windrows that are turned regularly, maintain an acceptable temperature threshold, and have sufficient carbon content will result in the production of nutrient rich soil,” Swan explains.

Composting of organic waste not only saves valuable landfill space, but can also reduce the amount of methane produced by a landfill. “The Regional District of East Kootenay has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Organics diversion is a relatively quick and simple way to achieve immediate reductions, and has the potential to save money and emissions through local production of a valuable end-product,” says RDEK Community Energy Manager Megan Lohmann.

Currently, the public composting program is being trialed in the Columbia Valley and Elk Valley.

The pilot programs will wrap up at the end of October. The next step in the project will be to conduct quality testing on the compost through the winter and early spring. The results of the pilot project will be reported to the RDEK Board in 2017.