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Study: Composting organic waste

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The Daily

Thursday, March 27, 2008

While diversion of all waste materials is on the rise, the Canadian compost pile is growing particularly rapidly, according to a new study.

From 2000 to 2004, composting at centralized facilities increased 70% to 1.7 million tonnes, according to data from the Waste Management Industry Survey. The average Canadian sent 51 kilograms of organic waste for composting in 2004, compared with just 32 kilograms in 2000.

Nationally, close to two-thirds of the diverted organic waste was generated by the residential sector.

The study, "Is composting organic waste spreading?," is published today in EnviroStats, Statistics Canada's quarterly bulletin on environmental and sustainable development statistics.

Along with recycling, diverting organic waste for composting is a way of reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfills and incinerators. Materials such as food waste and leaf and yard trimmings can be composted. Most households still compost in the backyard, but the use of curbside collection systems is growing.

According to data from the Households and the Environment Survey, 27% of Canadian households composted their waste in some way in 2006, compared with 23% in 1994.

Nearly three-quarters of households that composted kitchen waste, and 64% of households that composted yard waste, used a compost bin or pile or buried wastes in their garden. Only 30% of households that composted kitchen waste and 38% of households that composted yard waste used a curbside collection system.

Households in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia were most likely to participate in composting. They were also the most likely to report having kitchen or yard wastes picked up at the curb by a collection system.

Prince Edward Island also topped the chart with the highest per capita diversion of organic materials, sending 193 kilograms of organic waste per person to facilities for composting in 2004. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia followed, respectively diverting 121 kilograms and 100 kilograms of organic waste per person from landfills.

Across Canada, most households that compost do so year-round; 73% reported that they composted kitchen waste 10 to 12 months of the year.

Although backyard composting can be done year-round, the process slows in cold weather. The cold, coupled with the walk to the bin, may deter winter composting.

Households in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador were more likely to use a backyard compost bin or pile, and they composted less on a year-round basis.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 1736, 2009 and 3881.

The study "Is composting organic waste spreading?," part of the Spring 2008 issue of the quarterly bulletin EnviroStats, Vol. 2, no. 1 (16-002-XWE, free), is now available from the Publications module of our website.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact the information officer (613-951-0297;, Environment Accounts and Statistics Division.