How to set up a compost program at your office
In just under two years, ACU has composted over 5,000 kilograms of organic material at its Main Street head office thanks to a program partnership with Compost Winnipeg, which offers collection and compost services that can help fast-track a company’s success. For businesses looking to start a similar program, including offices, shops, restaurants and cafes, Compost Winnipeg can help new clients of varying sizes get up and running quickly.
We’ll do site visits and figure out what kind of containers a company or organization will need inside,” said Kelly Kuryk, Compost Winnipeg’s Project Manager. “We can supply you with bins if you need and we supply compostable bags so it makes it simpler for your system. Then it’s just a matter of making sure we figure out what an organization’s volumes are and how often you’ll need it pick-up.”
For ACU, this was a big opportunity to step up their green initiatives, according to Dennis Cunningham, ACU’s Manager of Environmental Sustainability. Here are some of the ways ACU and Compost Winnipeg made this happen, and steps you can follow to set up a similar program at your workplace.
1. Set up composting receptacles:
These are located in the main lunchroom and in departmental kitchens at ACU, allowing staff to easily sort compostable waste instead of disposing of it in the garbage.
2. Post signage:
Signs clearly explain what food waste can be diverted into the composting bin. “It’s mainly the specific food waste people bring in their lunches. It’s coffee grounds — because we drink a lot of coffee — tea bags and paper towels,” Dennis explained.
Commercial composting can also handle more types of organic waste than a typical backyard bin, including meat and dairy, plus certified compostable papers and plastics. Things not fit for any compost bin include recyclable items like metal, plastic and glass, disposable coffee cups, liquids (including coffee, juice and carbonated beverages), cellophane, Styrofoam, and milk or ice cream cartons.
3. Keep your supplies stocked up:
“The biggest challenge is that we run out of compostable bags fairly regularly, because we go through them so much,” Dennis said. As part of the program, Compost Winnipeg can help keep you stocked up on those essential items.
4. Outdoor bin transfers:
Compostable waste from the kitchen receptacles is collected by the ACU cleaning staff and brought to larger outdoor bins for bi-weekly collection by Compost Winnipeg. Those bins are then transported to Progressive Waste’s Prairie Green Composting Facility in Stony Mountain where long piles of compost are routinely turned to aerate and mix the compost.
5. Create an education program:
The organization works to educate staff, posting information on ACU’s intranet about the composting process and updating the volume that has been collected since the program began. For Dennis, delivering an educational message is an important component to seeing active participation in the program.
“If you put something in this bin, what’s the journey it takes? There are people who take part because they understand composting and people who do it because a bin is labelled ‘Put compost here.’ It can be about the process or about the sense they’re doing the right thing. Staff response has been very, very favourable to composting.”
6. Encourage an internal mind shift:
Advocate the program throughout your company, and take opportunities to encourage more environmentally conscious choices, such as when ordering supplies and using disposable containers. Dennis said the ACU composting program has also led to better waste-reduction choices, such as sourcing compostable food packaging for the employee-orientation program, ‘Being Assiniboine.’
7. Sign up for pickup service:
Compost Winnipeg also offers a pickup service, with approximately 60 clients on the commercial side. “We can take more than you can regularly compost — meat, dairy, wax paper, parchment paper, compostable cups or plates, napkins. It just makes it a little bit simpler not having to manage your own pile,” Kelly explained. Compost Winnipeg then picks up your organic waste once a week and tracks how much you compost, providing you with regular organic-waste diversion reports.
8. Report on your success:
Keep employees informed of the program’s success. “We get monthly reports from Compost Winnipeg that tell us how much material they’ve picked up. They convert that to a greenhouse gas reduction and we share that information and use it as part of our annual reporting on environmental performance. It’s tied to our greenhouse gas emission target.” To date, the program has helped ACU save almost 3000 kg of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions.
9. Plan for expansion:
There are other things, with a bit of a shift in our purchasing practices, we could do. We could move away from plastic coffee stir-sticks to wooden, and they would be compostable.”
It’s also possible to scale up your compost programs, offering it to other office locations. “Ideally, we’ll expand it out to our branches,” Dennis said. “We’ll probably end up having to do it in sort of a stepped approach and it will have to run in line with how Compost Winnipeg grows.”
Learn more about Compost Winnipeg’s growth and how you can set up a composting program at your company. If you’re interested in composting at home, Compost Winnipeg also offers helpful tips and training to get started.
Compost Winnipeg operates out of the Social Enterprise Centre at 765 Main Street in Winnipeg. For more information, visit Compost Winnipeg.
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