City urged to let compost pile rot in peace

Letters of support were “really passionate. I was moved”



It’s smelly at times and a nuisance for municipal bureaucrats, but Iqaluit’s displaced composting operation seems to have found a home.

The compost pile has been on the brink of homelessness since the end of May, when members of the Bill Mackenzie Humanitarian Society were told by the city that they had to move from their current location in the Iqaluit’s overflowing landfill.

Jackie Bourgeois, chair of the society, has been making the rounds of committee and council meetings with a presentation and a spiel explaining that the city wants less garbage and the society wants more compost and that these goals are not mutually exclusive.

“We’re trying to access funding and it’s not just for us, because it helps the city in what they need to do,” she said.

But the society must have a permanent home in order to be able to apply for funding, which they need to continue and expand the project. If city council accepts a solid waste committee recommendation when it meets next month, the compost pile will stay at the landfill site until it can move to a new site.

“It’s physical space limitations,” said Mark Hall, director of municipal services, at a solid waste committee meeting on July 13. “It was never our intent to shut you down.”

But that looked like a real possibility to the society. “We don’t have a problem moving out of the landfill,” said Bourgeois at the committee meeting. “We just need a permanent place to go.”

The society worked with the city’s lands and planning department and has found an agreeable site on a lot near its current spot in the landfill.

“The dollar a year that they charge us for the land will be the best dollar they spend,” said Jim Little, founder of the society. Although he is optimistic, he realizes that the decision is up to council and he isn’t sure what they are going to say.

When Little received a letter from the city in May explaining that there was no longer room in the landfill for the compost project, he sent an email to the 100 households who take part in the society’s pilot project, asking them to send emails of support to the city.

When he saw the letters he was shocked. “Even if we hadn’t got the site, I was moved,” said Little, “The letters were really passionate. I didn’t realize how much support we had.”

He is sure that the letters had an effect on council’s decision to work with the society. “We’re committed to working with the society to find a permanent solution,” said councillor Nancy Gillis.

Little sees the millions of dollars of funding that the society can access as a non-profit organization as a major advantage that could help the project continue, because those funds would otherwise be unavailable to the city.

The last wrinkle in the plan is to make sure that they can keep their compost pile at the landfill site until the new lot is ready, which wouldn’t be until next year.

“You can’t just throw compost down,” said Bourgeois in an interview. “We have to prepare the site and have the proper infrastructure.”

The society plans to build a proper structure to hold the compost, rather than just pile it onto a pad as they are currently doing.

The problem is that the landfill is undergoing an upgrade that will begin in the next few weeks. But Little has spoken with the foreman at the landfill who told him that the compost will not be in the way.

If the society does get final word that the land is theirs, Bourgeois and Little are both thinking big, and looking forward to the program becoming more established and expanding to serve the city’s growing population.

Little has plans to for 500 more green bins to collect compost around the city by next year and will ask the city if they can designate one of their garbage trucks to pick up compost two days a week. He also sees the need for a rigorous public education system to help get the community involved and enthused.

“We want to make people want to do it,” he said. “We’re basically asking people to make a lifestyle change and it takes a big adjustment.”

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