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Save the planet one compost bucket at a time

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It can cause bad smells and look disgusting but it is a habit ingrained in me from childhood. I have been collecting food waste for a long time, almost all my life.

My only break from the practice was between 1988 and 1990 when I didn't live in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Don't worry this isn't a cringe-worthy hoarding story. I collect the stuff only for the short term. My household food waste goes into covered stainless steel buckets lined with compostable bags and every third day or so I unload a full bucket.

With a certain amount of personal pride I was doing my small part to save the planet by collecting raw fruit and vegetable waste in one bucket on my kitchen counter and all other forms of organic food waste in a matching larger bucket.

My children were reluctantly trained in the art of "taking out the compost" because I couldn't possibly save the planet a compost bucket at a time on my own. Besides that I really want them to learn how to be planet savers also while they are still young.

"Compost bucket needs to be emptied," I used to cheerfully inform the nearest child each time there was no hope of putting another yellowed piece of broccoli into the bucket.

"It isn't my turn dad," was the usual retort.

Imagine the surprise a few months ago when the compost bin in my backyard was discovered ripped in half with some of the landscape ties sitting about a metre away from where they were sitting the day before. It was clear that a bear living near my neighbourhood had ripped up the backyard compost bin, which had been there for many years unnoticed by the resident wildlife. Less than two weeks later the heavy wooden bin with a thick plywood hinged lid complete with a simple lock was ripped up again by what must have been a very large bear.

My father-in-law made the sturdy enclosure. He built it using landscape ties with the full knowledge that it had to be heavy and bullet proof in case a bear became interested in it. When he repaired it after the first incident he took a few extra steps to secure the bin. It wasn't enough to keep out a bear that might have been engaged in a life or death struggle to find the calories required to spend an entire season huddled in a cozy forest den.

I suspect the poor berry crop in the high elevation led my neighbourhood bear to investigate my compost a little more thoroughly this fall. Sadly, the overnight opportunist didn't find anything of value in either food forage. The mixture of raw vegetables and fruits in the bin was regularly covered with dirt to speed up the process of converting the food waste back into a usable garden supplement so any food reward from the bin comes with a healthy dose of dirt and sand.

"He'll just rip it up again if we re-build it," my mother-in-law informed me.

Knowing full well the bear had all the power and understanding that continuing to put food waste in my backyard would likely endanger the bear; we agreed to abandon the backyard compost collection.

Giving up the backyard compost bin didn't cause too much strife because I had already developed a habit of regularly taking the nastier cooked food waste produced in my kitchen to one of the food collection bins destined for Whistler's compost facility. It is a good thing Whistler has a commercial compost operation that accepts my food waste at no cost to me in locations that are conveniently located close to my work and in between my home and my daughter's school, otherwise the bear invasion might have forced me to do the unthinkable and put the household food waste in with the household garbage.

Sleeping at night would be a real problem if I had to start putting food waste into an already taxed solid waste system.

According to the Recycling Council of B.C. 2,521,568 tonnes of garbage went into the landfills around the province in 2006. It just makes sense to me that food waste should be turned to soil and put back into the garden instead of going into a landfill where it contributes directly to global warming by evolving into methane.

Landfills, to me, are the stupidest thing the human race ever created. They have allowed us as a society to simply unload our unwanted stuff without giving much, if any, thought to the price our world pays for all the stuff we discard.

I continue to do my small part to save the world one compost bucket at a time now proudly knowing no bears will be harmed in the production of my kitchen waste.

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