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green wasteThe City of Owen Sound is again considering plans to introduce green bin pick up in 2023. This means that organic waste would be diverted from general waste that usually goes into landfill sites. This is a very important and positive step in the right direction and a great opportunity to have conversations about waste, particularly organic waste in the bigger picture of climate change. So far, the reporting only speaks to issues of limited lifespan of landfill sites, amounts of waste, practical aspects and mostly financial implications. However, as we face a climate crisis, the most noteworthy issue around organic waste is not mentioned at all: organic waste mixed in with general waste produces huge amounts of Green House Gas emissions, mostly methane due to the anaerobic process of decomposition in landfills sites. In Canada 20% of all methane emissions come from municipal landfill sites, and in 2015, greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector accounted for 8.6 megatons’ of carbon dioxide, or approximately 5% of Ontario’s total greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.

Methane is 25 times stronger as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and subsequently methane is a very potent greenhouse gas that is a key contributor to global climate change and our climate emergency. Therefore, reducing or eliminating methane emissions from landfills plays a critical role in mitigating global climate change.

Presently Owen Sound sends roughly 1180 tonnes of waste, which includes about 340 tonnes of organic waste, annually to landfill. This organic waste will produce about 50.66 tons of methane, which is equivalent as a GHG as 1266.5 tonnes of CO2.

Once Organic waste is diverted from general household waste it can be composted, and with the right technology will lead to very little CO2 emissions. Eventually, as part of a cyclical economy, the nutrient rich composted humus will enter the soil again in agriculture and various forms of gardens.

Another solution would be to collaborate with other municipalities in Grey and Bruce counties and utilize the already existing and running biodigester owned by Geargian Bluffs and Township of Chatsworth. This biodigester produces biogas, which is a renewable resource that can be used as a substitute or replacement for natural gas by powering an electrical generator to provide electricity to the grid. The digested organic matter is used as fertilizer on agriculture lands.

When we talk about organic waste we also need to include other factors, some of which we have quite a bit of control over as individuals and as a community. About 40% of food is wasted and presently ends up in landfills. In Canada, $31 billion worth of food is wasted annually. Ontarians alone generated nearly 3.6 million tonnes of food and organic waste. These numbers reflect policies, practices and individual behaviours which need to be addressed as they directly relate to social inequalities (millions go hungry while we throw away almost half the food we produce while millions go hungry) and to climate change. We can change this reality by changing our behaviours, the way we consume, store and process food and throw away food. The Ontario Food and Organic

Waste Framework states: “Reducing food and organic waste preserves our natural resources and helps fight climate change. It also saves consumers and businesses money, while improving access to healthy and fresh food for Ontarians”. To avoid waste and to preserve the value of resources (raw materials, energy and water) we need to develop a circular economy where products and materials are continuously (re) circulated rather than being discarded.

Climate change poses the greatest crisis humanity is facing. In order to mitigate and adapt to this crisis we need an “all hands on deck approach” (Seth Klein). Therefore addressing the issue of waste and particularly organic waste demands to be dealt with in the context of larger and comprehensive climate action plans where a climate lens is applied so that we reduce our Carbon Footprint and reach a sustainable environment.

Climate Action Team Owen Sound


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