Roszan Holmen: Don’t truck away our kitchen scraps

After patiently building a collection of rotting scraps over the past year, my diligence paid dividends last weekend.

I took advantage of the great weather to gingerly pry open my compost bin’s trap door for the first time.

A wall of rich, brown muck greeted me.

Shovel in hand, I scooped it into a bucket, releasing the sharp stench of fermentation – a clear sign I didn’t stir as often or add as much dry material as required. (Good composting techniques result in an odourless bin.)

I hauled my bucket down to my new raised beds and started spreading the goop, carefully layering it lasagna style with coffee grounds, leaf mulch, newspaper, egg shells and other goodies to enrich the soil.

I’m determined to correct last year’s mistakes.

At about this time in 2010, I naïvely killed off a section of grass, then plopped in some seeds and waited. And I reaped what I sowed: thumb-sized zucchinis, crayon-sized parsnips and hazelnut-sized beets.

Healthy gardens require healthy soils, I’ve learned, and much of what your soil needs is freely available on your own property.

It’s for this reason I object to the Capital Regional District’s plan to launch a regionwide kitchen scrap collection program. Why use diesel-burning vehicles to truck away kitchen waste, then make the return vehicle trip with rich soils and fertilizers for residents’ garden beds?

The initiative includes no opt-out options, meaning all householders will pay about $50 annually whether or not they compost their kitchen scraps at home. To me, that seems like punishment for those of us dedicated to a zero-mile solution. It also provides no incentive for people to start composting.

Now, I understand that composting isn’t possible or palatable for everybody. But there are plenty of companies providing pick-up services, including two bicycle-powered options.

Pedal to Petal is one such muscle-powered business.

The small upstart operates out of a backyard and last year pitched its operation to the CRD to be the sole provider to Greater Victoria residents.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t selected as a preferred option.

Thankfully, the CRD board rejected all companies bidding on the job. Instead, the board voted to postpone the program, due largely to the staggering costs involved.

My hope is that we can find another viable solution before the CRD revisits the issue, scheduled to happen sometime this year.

The City of Victoria might just have the right idea.

In its recently unveiled draft Official Community Plan, the city proposes community composting centres. That would allow apartment dwellers to dump kitchen scraps at a facility within easy walking or biking distance, or to pay a service provider to do it for them.

Local composting centres could be stationed in city parks, beside community gardens. They would cost money to build and run, but likely less than the cost to implement a street pick-up system, estimated at between $3.3 million and $4.3 million annually.

With regional buy-in, this localized composting model could be accompanied by the old carrot-and-stick incentives.

The carrot: high-quality compost bins available at a subsidized cost. The stick: fines for tossing kitchen scraps in the garbage bin. The spin-off benefit: reduced need for frequent (and costly) garbage pick up.

Roszan Holmen s a reporter with the Victoria News.

rholmen@vicnews.com

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