Reflections on 2016

“If we can’t recycle our organic waste in a socially acceptable manner, we should keep putting it into the landfill” was a line that we used in 2006 when we started a food waste separation and composting pilot program for our Fraser Valley Regional District. Odor was one of the largest concerns then, just as it was even more so in British Columbia in 2016. Water quality was also a concern in 2006, but is more of a concern now with the World Health Organization and the FAO communicating clearly how our environmental management impacts increasing concerns regarding antibiotic resistance.

I used the same line this year, during our Compost Facility Operator training.  Recycling our organic waste in a socially acceptable manner is bigger than odour and water quality. Its bigger than simple diversion from landfill. The organic matter and nutrients have to be recycled back into agriculture. The health of our soil and our world depends on this. Phosphorus is one element that receives increased attention, because it is a limited resource, and we need to optimize our phosphorus use, including recycling of food waste and biosolids.

Biosolids also need to be managed in a socially acceptable manner, as we have seen from the increased attention in the last two years in British Columbia. There is excellent world wide research on the concerns with pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and an increasing conclusion that composting is an important step in reducing many of these compounds present in biosolids.  Conclusions from a 2016 conference on pharmaceuticals in sewage sludge in Europe included the importance of recycling biosolids into agriculture, and that public exposure to contaminants must remain in context of exposure from other routes including direct exposure, dust, water etc. We need to keep asking the questions.

In 2016, Transform enjoyed developing best management practices for composting animal mortalities. We realized once again how amazing the compost process is, and how well it can decompose animals in a sustainable manner. We heard stories of how grizzly bears can dig 10 ft down into the soil to recover a buried animal, yet will not touch one that is being properly composted above ground! We learned how an insulated bin can be adapted for composting for smaller communities as well as for mortality composting.

We look forward to what 2017 brings, and we hope that we can continue to be a meaningful contributor to the flourishing of our communities, through recycling our organic wastes to increase the health of our soils.

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