My greatest “food” discovery in 2017 wasn’t the Instant Pot, despite my sister’s devotion and some 1,500 books dedicated to its use. Not a sous-vide contraption, either. Not the latest craft brewery, botanical distillery or chef-driven fast food.
No, the thing that most impressed me was at the waste end of the food stream. Specifically, it was the introduction of compost collection in my home city of Calgary, Alberta.
I’d always done my own backyard composting of kitchen scraps and yard waste. But it was a slow, uneven process that left me, each fall, with a couple of buckets of soil and big clumps of matted grass.
So, I was quite happy to recycle my plastic composter and instead let the city collect the compost every week. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the things I could throw in the big bin, things I could never have pitched in my old composter.
Things like meat, fat and bones. Like pet waste, which in my case are droppings from wandering neighbours’ cats. More permissible pet sheddings: fur, hair and feathers, along with rawhide bones. Not so sure about cold, dead kitty. But certainly cold ashes from fireplace and barbecues.
Also paper plates, coffee filters and Kleenex…. used Kleenex. And, significantly, paper towels, which can be used to wipe dirty pots and pans instead of rinsing all that wet, greasy stuff down my kitchen sink, which has a propensity for clogging.
I can also toss into the bin things like tree and hedge branches, cones, weeds, various garden vines, avocado pits and Christmas trees, none of which would ever have broken down in my old, tepid compost pile. And everything wooden from untreated lumber to Popsicle sticks. The list goes on.
The reason you can toss all this stuff into your compost bin is that Calgary’s modern, industrial-scale composting facility operates at temperatures exceeding 55 degrees Celsius. This searing heat breaks down all those bones and pits into usable soil and kills any harmful bacteria.
At $6.50 a month, I figure this weekly compost collection is a bargain. More important, it can cut most people’s garbage at least in half, sparing the city’s overflowing landfills from more than 85 million kilograms of food and yard waste every year.
Compost collection tips
Yes, you can throw all your kitchen scraps into your old, unlined compost bucket. But when you dump that bucket into the compost bin, there’s a tendency for all the loose, wet stuff to stick to the bin’s sides and bottom. In winter, said wet stuff can freeze to the bin, leading to messy cleanups.
It’s better to use some kind of bag. Do-it-yourselfers can consult YouTube for learning how to fold newspaper into a collection device that fits inside your under-the-sink compost bin. Lazier types can buy compostable plastic liners; I bought a 125-bag box at Costco for peanuts. Just don’t let them sit too long under your sink, as they start to break down and leak a bit of fluid after about a week.