Composting programs have been a fixture across the country for many years, both in rural and urban settings. Millions of Canadians are now familiar with how to separate organic waste at home, and expect local authorities to collect and properly compost that waste.

With that said, experts in the environmental space have pointed out gaps in the system, such as the fact that some facilities are not equipped to compost all organic material, and diversion rates are not as high as they could be. Still, recent data show that composting organics is becoming more streamlined, efficient, and successful in Canada.

To get a better sense of this, it’s useful to look at how trends have evolved over time. In 2012, composting experts BioCycle did an analysis of composting across the country. Against recent Statistics Canada data, it offers an illuminating comparison.

  • In 2012, Nova Scotia was considered a leader, with aggressive targets for limiting waste and increasing composting investment. As of 2019, Nova Scotia and PEI were found to be the most dedicated kitchen waste composters, at 90 and 95% of households, respectively.
  • Quebec had a goal of 60% diversion of all organic waste, but a rate of only 22% in 2012. Based on 2018 figures, that number is now at 31%, and the Quebec government has said they have a goal of 70% by 2030.
  • At the time in Ontario, about 40% of municipalities had curbside organics collection, and diverted more waste than any other province. However, most programs did not extend to multi-unit buildings, and unfortunately this is still the case (Some regions, like Waterloo, have just introduced plans to include composting in these buildings).
  • In 2012, Alberta generated more waste per capita than any other province, and Calgary had only just launched a composting program at the time – but today, households there are more than twice as likely to compost kitchen waste than in Edmonton. As explained by Statistics Canada, this is likely because Edmonton still has a single-stream waste program, where waste is sorted at facilities. Officials there are now looking to change this.
  • BioCycle found that composting rates in Vancouver were pretty low, and today, they remain so; approximately 1 in 12 households in Vancouver had access to a municipal composting program and did not use it. However, recent stats from the City of Vancouver say their overall waste diversion rate (which includes recycling and compost) is around 63%.

So, what can we glean from this evolution? As BioCycle explains, investment is needed on part of local authorities as well as private companies, who provide facilities and expertise to compost organic waste. Access is also crucial, as we see in the case of Calgary and households in the Maritimes. Over the past decade, much improvement has been made for composting in Canada, but there’s still a long way to go. We’ll examine this further in a discussion about bioplastics and more, next month.