News  Montreal looks to implement citywide composting

Public consultations to begin next month

As part of a four-year waste development plan, the City of Montreal has drafted new by-laws to facilitate the implementation of citywide composting. The plan, adopted in 2009, includes the establishment of four organic matter treatment centres and a domestic garbage pre-treatment centre.

The plan will undergo public consultations run by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), beginning with information sessions on November 1. Submissions to the commission will be heard beginning on November 30.

The plan aims to reduce Montreal’s landfill-bound organic waste by 60 per cent by 2020.

The OCPM will hold its meetings in the neighbourhoods where the developments are planned: the boroughs of Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension and LaSalle, and the cities of Dorval and Montreal East. At the time of press, the four boroughs where sites are planned could not be reached for comment.

Currently, the City’s composting efforts consist of pilot projects across boroughs including Verdun, the Plateau-Mont-Royal, and Westmount.

Valérie de Gagné, a spokesperson for the City, described the new plan as a major advancement. “We think all buildings of eight apartments or less deserve treatment of organic matter, so, yes, it’s a big jump.”

In an email to The Daily, David Morris, executive coordinator of McGill’s Gorilla Composting service, said, “Montreal will be playing catch-up to major Canadian cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Edmonton.”

According to their websites, Toronto, Edmonton, and Ottawa have had citywide composting programs since 2000, 2007, and 2009, respectively. Toronto had aimed to reduce its landfill contribution to 70 per cent by 2010, while the City of Edmonton’s website states that 60 per cent of waste is already diverted from landfills. Equivalent numbers for Ottawa were not available.

Tye Hunt, the co-founder of Compost Montréal – a compost collection operation that serves about 1,000 commercial and residential clients throughout the city, including McGill’s MORE houses and Midnight Kitchen – noted that not all compost avoids landfills.

“If you end up with compost of B-grade or less it will still end up in landfills. I know Toronto’s is B-grade, and a lot of it ends up in a landfill anyway. It has to be A or AA to be food safe,” Hunt said.

AA-grade compost can be used by itself as fertilizer, while A-grade must be mixed with soil and B-grade heads to a landfill.

Montreal’s plan involves a process of biomethanisation, which produces methane from the organic waste broken down during treatment.

Morris noted both the dangers and potential benefits of producing methane. “The uncontrolled release of methane in landfills is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, because methane is 21 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. However, methane, essentially natural gas, can be harnessed and burned to generate electricity.”

Regardless of the results of Montreal’s own composting efforts, Hunt said that the first and biggest step toward citywide composting was the establishment of treatment centres.

“If they’re getting treatment sites down, that’s half the battle. My experience with treatment sites is that no one wants a treatment site in their neighborhood. They’re going to have to pick a site where no one objects,” he said.

Speaking to the prospect of resistance from the communities where these developments are planned, de Gagné said, “We will present the project to the citizens. We are there to inform and to take questions.”