There is an old saying among environmentalist “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” This applies whenever solutions to environmental problems are being devised. Especially solutions involving human behaviour. It means that just because a solution is not perfect does not mean it is not good. Dealing with household organic waste is just such an example.
There are definitely challenges to composting organic waste at home, but they are not insurmountable. Plant wastes are pretty easy to compost, a decent composting bin the occasional turning over of the material in it and removal of good compost at the bottom. Anyone who can separate their waste into a special bin and take that bin to the edge of the road is already doing the same amount of work. But, you might ask, what about animal food scraps, bones and fat and the like, they don’t go in most composters. And that is right, composting animal scraps is challenging and requires more expensive composting equipment. But this is where we get to the perfect being the enemy of the good. If it is good to home-compost plant material, is it good enough?
It is helpful to have some numbers. Thanks to Recic-Quebec, we can look at a waste characterization study done for the MRC de Robert-Cliché, a region with characteristics similar to MoP.
The results of the study indicated that organic waste made up between 43 and 64% of the waste generated by households and 30% of the waste generated by farms. However almost all of that material is garden waste and household waste that can be composted at home (their terminology). The volume of waste not suitable for backyard composting ranged from 0.5% to 6% for households and was 0% for farms.
So if the vast amount of organic waste can be composted at home, why is this not the preferred solution for our Municipality? It is seems expensive to send big trucks hundreds of kms, emitting pollution and damaging roads in order to get 1 or 2% of household waste. Are we letting the perfect be the enemy of the good?
Coda: It is worth noting that perfect diversion rarely happens, even after years of curbside collection of recyclables about 20 – 25% of our garbage stream is material that should be in the recycle bin.
Footnote: The Waste Characterization Study for MRC de Robert-Cliché has been shared with all of the Municipal Councillors and the Mayor. If you are interested in seeing the whole report just ask one of them.