Unless you are living under a rock you should know that the City of Calgary has rolled out their new Green Cart program and everyone should have their green carts for composting by the end of September. News releases indicate that Calgary’s in-vessel processing facility is a state of the art compost facility and highlight that pilot communities have successfully cut their garbage output nearly in half since introducing composting. In addition to creating nutrient-rich compost, protecting our land, air and water resources and keeping material out of landfills, the City intends to sell bulk compost to companies with the proceeds to go towards reducing processing costs and lowering the Green Cart program fee. The City also intends to set aside a portion of the finished compost to give back to the community for free. This includes supporting community gardens and select giveaway days for the public starting in 2018.
I just returned from spending my summer vacation with friends in PEI, NS and ONT where they have been composting for a longer periods of time. They shared with me some of the things they loved and hated about their unique composting programs. They also shared some pretty great solutions to some of the issues people will surely encounter as they learn to adapt to Calgary’s program. Here is some of the information I have gathered……
A recurring theme that seems to arise with composting is an issue of maggots in green bins during the summer months. Although I was disturbed to hear some of the worse case scenario stories I was also grateful to hear there are ways to avoid major issues. A little lesson on maggots: Maggots are fly larvae and occur when flies lay eggs on organic waste. They typically have a 7-day life cycle, depending on outside temperatures. (Flies are most active between 20 – 25 C). To prevent maggots from occurring you have to prevent mature flies from laying eggs in your green bin or kitchen collector to begin with.
- Flies are particularly attracted by protein sources, mostly meat and bones. Try waiting until the night before collection before placing these items in the green cart.
- Wrap food tightly in newspaper or other paper products (such as boxboard) before placing it in your green cart.
- If space permits, freeze meat / fruit / vegetable organic waste in newspaper or paper bags then place into the green cart the night before collection.
- When cleaning out your refrigerator, try waiting until the day before your collection day, rather than the day after.
- If you are using compostable bags and are bagging it in those prior to placing in cart the flies should not have access to your compost and have less opportunity to lay eggs.
- Keep lids on bins securely latched at all times
- The longer your organic waste remains in the green cart, the longer flies have the opportunity to breed in it. Put your green cart out for collection every week, even if it isn’t full.
- Flies are not readily attracted to green carts if wet and rotting foods aren’t exposed. Try alternating two to four inch layers of kitchen waste with a layer of dry leaf and yard waste or paper products. A light sprinkling of soil to cover food layers will also help suppress smells and flies.
- Cover your green cart with black plastic sheeting such as a garbage bag during the summer months to trap heat and reduce fly survival. Flies are most active at average temperatures of 20 – 25ºC and become undetectable above 45ºC and below 10ºC.
- Certain odours will repel flies such as pennyroyal, camphor, eucalyptus, mint or bay. Try hanging some bruised leaves of these herbs in clusters or applying dabs of herbal oil to the outside of your green cart. Line the outer rim of the cart with salt or vinegar to prevent flies from entering the container or cover the maggots with lime, salt or vinegar. Diatomaceous Earth is a natural fossil product that kills maggots, slugs, etc. Check garden centres and nurseries for availability.
- If you have discovered maggots in your green cart, clean your green cart thoroughly after the next collection day. Be sure to leave no residue in the bottom of the cart and ensure it is dry before use.
It’s been less than a week and I already discovered fruit flies around my kitchen bin. A little lesson on fruit flies: Fruit flies do not materialize out of thin air. You unknowingly bring fruit flies into your house in the larvae stage on fresh fruit and veggies (just another reason to wash that apple before eating it).
- If you wash fruit as soon as you bring it home, you may never see another fruit fly again!
- Keep your lid tightly closed on your kitchen catcher or Green Bin. Fruit flies are seasonal and will disappear eventually.
- If your compost is mostly food scraps and too wet, it may be short on dry carbons. Try adding shredded paper.
- Capture fruit flies with a simple fruit fly trap. Use a bowl of vinegar or a banana peel and some apple cider vinegar covered by plastic wrap with several small holes in it. Place the trap where the flies congregate. Empty as required.
- Try simply taking out the kitchen collector more often so the flies don’t get a chance to settle in.
- Keep the small kitchen collector inside the fridge or freezer to reduce odours. Also, keep your compost containers out of the sun.
- Line the bottom of your compost container with a layer of newspaper to absorb moisture.
- Line the bottom of your cart with paper products such as crumpled newspaper, boxboard, fibre egg cartons, take-out trays or greasy pizza boxes to absorb liquid and prevent material from sticking to the bottom of the cart.
- Large paper bags, such as leaf and yard waste bags, may also be used to line the cart.
- Odours can also be eliminated using locally available deodorizers such as Green Bin Deodorizer.
- Try sprinkling your cart with vinegar or baking soda as well to eliminate odours.
- Line your Kitchen Bin with newspaper, brown paper bags, or use an approved compostable bag.
- Wrap meat, bones, and fish, in newspaper to help reduce moisture and avoid odours.
- Empty your kitchen collector, and rinse it on a daily basis
- The garden hose might be your best weapon. Using a solution of borax and water or vinegar and water is the best eco-choice for cleaning the bin. Remember to wash your Green Bin on your lawn to avoid direct run-off going into the storm drains.
- Store your cart in a well-ventilated area.
Green Bins are durable and designed to be animal and rodent resistant but there are additional steps you can take to discourage four-legged creatures from entering.
- Store your bin in the garage or enclosed area if possible. If your bin is stored outside secure it to a fence or other structure to ensure that it stays upright.
- Make sure all of the contents are inside the bin (no bags sticking out)
- Set your Green Bin out the morning of your garbage collection.
- Secure the lid down by crisscrossing two bungee cords during the week. Frozen Compost
5. Frozen Compost
- To avoid having the contents of your outdoor bin freeze in the winter, which makes it difficult to empty, line the bottom of your bin with newspaper then add a layer of compostable items, then add another layer of newspaper and continue his technique until bin is full.
Please feel free to share your experiences with composting in your home, as well as, strategies you have used to ward off common problems. I look forward to hearing from you!