Carol Engram and Robert Baillie don’t get frustrated when they forget leftovers in the fridge. As two of Powell River’s composting experts, they know what many people consider garbage is simply a way of completing the food cycle and saving money in the process.
“Why would I throw out that $5 container of berries when I can feed it to my worms and get great fertilizer in a few weeks?” said Engram. “I really am getting my money’s worth from everything I buy.”
“40 per cent of our waste stream is organic, including yard waste, manures, clothing made from natural materials, and other biodegradable items,” he said. “How much less garbage would we throw away if we could turn all of that into fertilizer and soil?”
While the City of Powell River has free organics drop-offs at Town Centre Recycling Depot and Sunshine Disposal and Recycling, building and maintaining a composter to create fertilizer for gardens, lawns and houseplants is easy and inexpensive.
Baillie developed a method of using old chest freezers as aerobic compost bins. Insulated and contained, freezer composters are an easy way to compost household organic waste.
“The size of your system will depend on the amount of waste you produce,” said Baillie, “but a family of five could use an average-sized freezer composter for a year before they would need to empty it. Because the freezer keeps in the heat, it composts very efficiently.”
For those looking for a smaller system, Engram recommends a small worm bin.
“Worms are living things, so they need to be protected from extreme temperatures,” she said. “That can be as simple as covering them with plywood sheets in the winter and shading them in the summer.”
Baillie and Engram agree that the resident bear population is one of the considerations when composting in Powell River, but properly maintaining compost bins is the best way to reduce the chances of attracting bears.
“I heard of someone who just threw a whole salmon on the top of their compost pile, so of course the bear was attracted by the smell,” said Baillie. “But if you take a little bit of time to properly turn your compost so the fresh material is underneath, and alternate green and brown layers, you’ll reduce both the smell and the chances of attracting animals.”
Engram believes passion and convenience are two essential ingredients for a successful backyard composter.
“Many people put their compost bins at the back of their property, where it isn’t easy to get to,” she said. “Proper maintenance doesn’t take much time or energy, but it’s essential for peak efficiency, and keeping smells down and controlling pests.
“You also need to figure out why you want to compost. Whether it’s concern for the environment or saving money, that’s why you’ll put in the work.”
For more information on how to start backyard composting, go to the Let’s Talk Trash website at letstalktrash.ca/composting.