Fredericton / News / City stories

Ever wonder why Fredericton does not have a municipal compost program?

The municipal recycling and waste collection programs bring great benefits to our city. But residents sometimes ask why the City of Fredericton doesn’t have a municipal compost or source-separated organics (SSO) program as some other municipalities do. Though we may pursue that kind of program in the future, there are several key challenges to developing a program, and the city is currently focused on other opportunities and addressing other challenges.

Let’s look first at what is done with organic materials currently. All organic waste sent to the landfill is processed in the Fredericton Region Solid Waste’s (FRSW) landfill gas capture program. The FRSW’s Landfill Gas Utilization Plant (LGUP) takes the methane that is produced when waste decomposes in the landfill and turns it into a renewable energy source. The LGUP removes up to 60,000 tonnes of methane from the atmosphere every year – the equivalent of taking 15,000 cars off the road. That energy is then sold back to NB Power and provides enough electricity to power roughly 2,000 homes. These carbon benefits are approximately the same as what would be realized from a successful municipal composting program.

Because the LGUP is operating effectively at the regional level, there is little incentive to introduce a composting system at the landfill. That means the City of Fredericton would need to develop a composting program on its own, and find a site within the city. Implementing a compost program would involve a high price tag. Building a facility to process organics would cost between $6 million and $15 million, depending on the type and scale of the system. Buying household carts would cost an additional million dollars.

Beyond those initial costs, the net annual costs could be as high as $1.7 million per year to process the compost and $60,000 per year for household cart maintenance and replacement. And that’s not even taking into account the costs and logistical challenges of addressing odour and pest problems that could come with the program. In addition, a program require a new fleet of trucks on the road to collect compost, since it would be brought to a different location than the landfill. This has a monetary and financial cost associated with it.

While it’s not feasible to ramp up a new municipal compost program at this time, the city is working on reducing our environmental footprint further with our current recycling program. Recent estimates show that the residential recycling program is only used by about 40% of the homes where the service is available. In other words, if everyone fully participated, we could more than double the amount of waste that we divert from the landfill every year.

That’s going to be our focus in the coming year – increasing participation in the existing program by more widely promoting the benefits of recycling and finding out what barriers are keeping people from participating in the program. This way, we’ll make sure that our current systems are working as effectively as possible before adding new services that could have their own challenges.

In the meantime, we encourage residents to compost at home. While a municipal program would be very costly, it’s pretty affordable to do on an individual level. All you need is a small part of your own yard, though most people prefer to keep their organics in a composting bin. Organics such as vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and filters, leaves, wood chips, sawdust from untreated wood, shredded paper, hair, animal fur and much more can be composted in your own back yard.

You can learn more about how to compost here. We’re also working with community partners to engage more citizens to help them learn how to compost at home. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date about upcoming composting workshops and events held by our community partners.