COMPOSTING HITS HOME RUNS ACROSS CANADA

BioCycle May 2005, Vol. 46, No. 5, p. 31

This special report, Composting In Canada, highlights an exciting range of programs, projects and policies. The section starts out with a round-up of composting and compost use activities.

Susan Antler

ACROSS Canada, organics are now at bat and the composting team is in the midst of some great plays and scoring opportunities. And it’s all because of a lot of base hits from many folks and organizations over many years.

In our rookie season, we cheered when leaf and yard materials became fodder for municipal and residential compost piles. The roar got louder with the mass distribution of backyard compost bins and the advent of pilot tests of curbside collection programs for residential organics.

Our batting order of smaller communities taking on the organics challenge, winning and announcing their triumphs built credibility with larger population bases. The pressure from closing landfills helped intensify the interest in the game. Sometimes there have been bunts and errors. But even these have built our collective experience base and allowed our game strategy to get better.

The power of organics recovery to address diversion objectives is building our momentum. Its sustainability will be ensured when we equally embrace a manufacturing and marketing attitude, creating value-added compost products to meet the needs of various end-user groups.

The Composting Council of Canada is pleased to act as guest editor for BioCycle’s Composting In Canada special report. We’ve taken this opportunity to “round-up” a number of articles that demonstrate the depth and breadth of composting and compost use activity across Canada. Articles include a discussion of The National Review of the Compost Standard, the introduction of the Composting Quality Alliance, implementation of provincial diversion strategies in Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia and much more – all exciting initiatives that are helping to make our game more exciting and full of possibilities.

The following summaries highlight new developments around the country.

ALL TREAT FARMS
All Treat Farms Ltd. recently added to its composting operations in Arthur, Ontario, via the installation of the GORE™ composting system. The $6-million addition marks the single-largest investment in All Treat Farms’ 50-year history. Employing a staff of 94, All Treat services municipal leaf and yard trimmings contracts as well as processes organic residuals from a variety of private sector operations.

Compost products in bulk and bags are marketed through a number of national retail chains, grocery stores and independent garden centers. All Treat, in partnership with the Guelph Turf Grass Institute and National Research Council, also has spearheaded research in the development of a compost mix as a sedge peat replacement for the golf course industry.

“Performance data have indicated that compost is a superior alternative to peat when used as the organic amendment in sand-based root zones,” says George White, president of All Treat Farms. “For the turf manager, the addition of compost optimizes the opportunities available for seeding and subsequent turf establishment. Greens and tees can be opened for play sooner and healthy turf can be maintained with reduced use of fertilizers, fungicides and herbicides as well as labor.”

BOWDEN INSTITUTION
Located just north of Calgary, Alberta, the Bowden Institution, a medium security federal penitentiary, has embarked on an aggressive composting program to address both its internal organic residuals management program (including food scraps, greenhouse and grounds debris, wood shavings and barnyard manures) as well as off-site organics from a supermarket chain and biosolids. The program is part of Correctional Service of Canada’s overall Sustainable Development Strategy and has realized a reduction in landfill utilization, sending the equivalent of 0.15 kg/occupant/day to landfill versus the national penitentiary average of 0.6 kg/occupant/day.

Organics and recyclables are received and sorted at the waste transfer facility with paper products being shredded and utilized as a carbon source for the composting operation. With the exception of the food residuals (for which a Wright in-vessel composter is used), all other organics are windrow composted. The site has a rolled concrete pad for the mixing of the organics in addition to a compacted clay pad and a leachate collection pond. Over 7,000 metric tons of organics are processed annually.

Tests are completed regularly on the finished product, which is consistently rated as a Class A product by CCME guidelines. In addition to utilizing the finished compost for internal landscaping and agricultural purposes, Bowden sells bulk compost to local landscapers and homeowners as well as bagged product for sale within the supermarket chain.

Bowden Institution is a founding member of the Composting Council of Canada’s Compost Quality Alliance program (see “Product Quality Initiative Builds Compost Markets” in this issue). Bowden Institution also has embarked on in-house growth trials with the compost being used as a media in the production of bedding plants. Results to-date have delivered excellent plant growth as well as showing disease suppression.

NEW ADDITION IN NEW BRUNSWICK
Envirem Technologies, based in Fredericton, New Brunswick, recently opened a new facility in Clarendon, its eighth composting site in the province. Operated in partnership with J.D. Irving Limited, which is supplying organic residuals from its forest products operations, the Clarendon facility will provide additional production of bagged and bulk topsoil, compost growth mixes and mulches to meet the growing demands from both Eastern Canada and the United States.

Envirem currently processes over 350,000 metric tons of organic residuals annually at its eight facilities. Livestock manure, aquaculture materials, municipal and institutional-commercial organics, biosolids, forest products and pulp and paper residuals are among the many organic materials being managed. A variety of composting processes are employed, including windrow composting, anaerobic digestion and pelletization. The finished products are marketed under the brand names: Greenhouse Gold™ and Nutri-Wave™ as well as packaged for other companies and through private labels for a variety of retail chains.

Several research projects are underway involving manufactured topsoil and mine reclamation initiatives – all designed to prove the added merits of compost versus traditional approaches. “The initial results from our manufactured topsoil project are extremely positive,” says Bob Kiely, General Manager of Envirem Technologies. “The lawn care requirements have been reduced, including reduced watering cycles. Also, there has been no fertilizer, liming or herbicides/pesticides applications necessary to date. As results continue to be monitored, we expect to be able to develop an excellent case for its use as a growing medium for residential as well as specialty landscaping applications on golf courses and sports fields.”

COMPOSTING BIOSOLIDS IN CONTAINERS
The Town of Okotoks, Alberta began operating an in-vessel biosolids composting facility in August 2003, processing 5,000 kg/day of dewatered sewage sludge (16 percent solids) and about 2,500 kg/day of amendment. Nine vessels (34 m3 each) were supplied by Engineered Compost Systems. The waste-activated solids are mixed with pole peelings and sawdust, then loaded into the vessels via conveyor. A roll-off truck moves the filled vessels to a composting pad, where they are hooked up to the aeration and process control system.

The batch usually meets the time-temperature requirements of 72 hours at or above 55°C in the first five days, according to Davey Robertson of the Okotoks Wastewater Treatment Plant. After 12 to 14 days, the vessel is picked up by the roll-off truck, emptied on a storage pad and returned to the loading area. The semistabilized compost is then transported to another location for further composting and curing. A combination of more volume of biosolids than expected and difficulties with the dewatering equipment, which have yielded a wetter material, has caused some challenges to facility operations. “The town was able to find a drier amendment, and has increased the ratio of that material in the mix,” notes Robertson. To handle the greater volume, retention time in the vessels was shortened by an average of two days. The material still meets the CCME guidelines for pathogen reduction.

APPLEBY STREAMBANK RESTORATION
An erosion control project in Burlington, Ontario, utilizing compost as the growth medium, was recently installed by Filtrexx™ Canada. The Appleby Creek Realignment Project was initiated to establish a new creek path in the area for a building site. The project involves multilevels of government including Halton Region Conservation Authority, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the Federal Department of Fisheries & Oceans.

Started in March 2005 and completed by May, the restoration consisted of a number of stages with the first being the seeding of the flood plain as well as the planting of cedars and live-staking of willow and dogwood plants, using a compost-rich growth media. To establish the new direction of the stream bank, Filtrexx utilized its Filter Soxx to create a river edge and waterway direction. Each layer involved lockdown netting and was secured into the stream bank for extra stability. Further plant materials were added followed by the final phase, which involved covering the growth area with a seeded compost blanket, designed to germinate in less than 10 days. Water from the creek was then released into the new streambed.

“This installation is the largest of its kind to date in Canada, involving 1,805 linear feet of new riverbank edging,” said Ron Bisaillon of Filtrexx Canada. “The system establishes a large, fast growth of root mass on the creek bank while purifying water as it flows to the creek. It is significantly less labor intensive than more traditional methods which allows for cost savings to be realized in both the installation process as well as the percentage of growth of live stakes.”

COMPOST USE IN STRAWBERRY PRODUCTION
Results of a New Brunswick growth trial involving compost on strawberry production delivered a dramatic increase in yield over the two year trial. “Strawberry production is highly dependent on the combination of available nutrients, well drained soils and soil moisture,” said Pat Toner, Soil Management Specialist, New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture. “In conducting this trial, we wanted to see what impact compost would have to address the growing medium requirements for this crop. What was interesting for us was that a high value crop such as strawberries could present an interesting economic case for compost utilization if the results turned out to be positive.”

In the fall of 2002, compost was added at various treatment volumes, ranging from 0.00 cm depth (control) to 2.54 cm (low level) and 5.00 cm (high level). No fertilizer was used during the trial. Monitoring of the soil and crop was conducted in several ways including nitrogen and leaf tissue testing, soil moisture content, bulk density, soil conductivity and aggregate stability. Trends showed an increase in soil organic matter, soil respiration and infiltration rates and a corresponding decrease in soil bulk density with increased additions of compost. Soils also exhibited a trend towards increased resistance to breakdown from rainfall.

“Use of mature compost in strawberry production at volumes of 2.5 to 5.0 cm can improve the physical, biological and chemical quality of the soil,” Toner says. “But perhaps the largest benefit of the trial was the significant increase in yield. Both treatments realized dramatic production results with the low compost level and the high compost level delivering a 29 percent and 64 percent increase respectively.”

Susan Antler is Executive Director of the Composting Council of Canada, and guest editor of this special report, Composting In Canada.

Editor’s Note: All dollar amounts reported in the Composting In Canada special report are in $Cdn. To convert to $US, divide by 1.32. Measurements have been kept in metric.

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