Sustainable Composting Project:
The Wheatland Regional Centre-Rosetown Story
Compost 'happens' and flowers flourish in Rosetown, Saskatchewan. Rosetown is a growing community of 2,200 people located 115 kms southwest of Saskatoon on Highway 7. The Wheatland Regional Centre has managed a compost program for the town for over a decade. In 2006, Rosetown won a national "Communities in Bloom" award that specifically recognized the impact of the local committee on their town. The town website proudly features many photographs of parks and flower beds and notes both the award and the compost program on their Facts page.
When the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council (SWRC) began its two-year compost project in the fall of 2007, the Wheatland Regional Centre (WRC) was an easily identified partner. WRC is a major presence in Rosetown. It carries out a number of programs for disabled persons, operates the local SARCAN recycling centre (www.sarcan.ca) and handles the paper and cardboard recycling for the town, as well as operating the yard waste compost program. It's a busy place.
The composting site was adjacent to the WRC building. Citizens and lawn care providers dropped off materials. The site was open 24 hours a day and was passively supervised during client program hours. People were asked to debag. Bagged material left after hours was debagged by WRC staff and clients. The compost was being made into piles or windrows with an aging tractor. There was no budget to add water to the compost windrows, so the breakdown process was dependent on rainfall and took two to three years. Finished compost was being used by citizens and for town projects but the slow pace of decomposition meant that the yard was filling up.
Space was of particular concern in the fall of 2007. Rosetown was just completing a new landfill site and the town was about to start charging residents a fee for putting out more than two standard-sized bags of garbage each week. CEO Shanno Lidster and others at Wheatland thought that the new user pay system for waste had merit, but knew that it would likely mean greatly increased recycling rates in the town. When it came to compost, they felt that their current system would not be able to handle the larger volumes of material and the increased need for supervision.
SWRC's Larry Mullen was able to assist the WRC in several ways over the course of the next two years. He provided advice about how to use water and space more effectively and some guidance about what to ask the town to contribute. Larry also gave two evening compost workshops to assist interested people with their home composting systems.
November 2007 to October 2009 was a stressful period for the Wheatland Regional Centre. Illness, personal tragedy and a crashing recycled paper market, combined with the expected increase in compost materials being delivered, provided lots of management challenges. The move to the new garbage system has doubled the amount of compostable material arriving at their site.
There have also been positive developments in that time period. The town has offered a new, fenced, composting space near the existing facility and will be providing a payloader and operator to turn the piles. In the meantime, Kim Cordes, WRC's Industry Supervisor, has used Larry's advice and information he picked up at the SWRC Compost Field Day in June to make the existing site work. Kim has developed a method for watering the piles using a tank mounted on his own truck. This will speed up the composting process considerably.
As of late August 2009, WRC had 240 cubic yards of finished compost available for fall or spring use and lots more in process. Congratulations to the folks at the Wheatland Regional Centre and all of Rosetown for carrying on their composting tradition through this time of change.
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