Producers urged to consider commercial-scale composting

Producers urged to consider commercial-scale composting
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The Recycling Council of Alberta has created a guide for farmers and rural landowners who might be interested in composting organic waste material from municipalities and businesses.

Nationwide, about 2.2 million tonnes of organic waste are sent to landfills annually and it could be composted and spread on fields, the organization said.

“We have traditionally looked at composting as a solution to a waste management problem,” recycling council executive director Christina Seidel said in a release. “That approach is fraught with issues because we need a place for the resulting materials to go.

“Through this project, we looked at compost as a resource and where it is best used — on farms. Compost improves the soil and is a valuable resource for farmers.”

In addition to an overview of methods for making and applying compost, the 26-page guide profiles Strickland Farms near Penhold, which originally began applying compost purchased from the Bowden Institution in the late 2000s. But after the closure of the institution’s composting facility, the family began its own composting operation in 2010. Strickland Farms first composted biosolids and later began accepting municipal organic waste from Sylvan Lake and Innisfail and then from Red Deer’s Green Cart program and commercial organic waste from Calgary and other locations in Alberta and B.C.

The farm now has a 22-acre composting site and is managed by Brian Strickland. It uses a multi-step process beginning with aerated static piles (which have aeration pipes under them) and later involves screening and placing the material into windrows. The compost spends eight weeks in the windrows and is mechanically turned three times before field application.

“Currently, Stickland Farms accepts 35,000 tonnes of organic waste per year, with up to 160 tonnes coming in per day,” the guide states. “In addition to Brian, the operation employs three to four full-time staff.”

The guide, which is free and can be downloaded online, covers a number of topics beginning with the registration and approval process. Other topics include cost estimates for setting up a compost facility, feed stock supply, composting methods, site layout, and storage.

There is a section on understanding compost, which covers nutrient composition, electrical conductivity, and moisture content. The section on applying compost looks at applications limits and setbacks.

“By applying compost, farmers can reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers, increase crop yields, and improve overall soil quality,” the recycling council said in its press release.

It also says compost balances pH, increases water retention, and “adds disease resistance through the formation of a healthy community of microbes.”

To download An Introductory Guide to On-Farm Composting, go to recycle.ab.ca and visit the On-Farm Composting page.

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